[Federal Register: February 16, 2000 (Volume 65, Number 32)]
[Proposed Rules]               
[Page 7817-7819]
From the Federal Register Online via GPO Access [wais.access.gpo.gov]



Fish and Wildlife Service

50 CFR Part 17

RIN 1018-AF56

Endangered and Threatened Wildlife and Plants; Notice of 
Reopening of Comment Period on the Proposed Rule To List the Alabama 
Sturgeon as Endangered

AGENCY: Fish and Wildlife Service, Interior.

ACTION: Proposed rule; notice of reopening of comment period.


[[Page 7818]]

SUMMARY: We, the Fish and Wildlife Service (Service), give notice that 
the public comment period on the proposed rule to list the Alabama 
sturgeon (Scaphirhynchus suttkusi) as endangered is reopened. We are 
reopening the comment period in order to obtain comments on a 
Conservation Agreement and Strategy for the Alabama sturgeon (both 
documents will be referred to hereafter as the 2000 Strategy), which 
were signed by the Alabama Department of Conservation and Natural 
Resources (ADCNR), the Service, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers 
(Corps), and the Alabama-Tombigbee Rivers Coalition on February 9, 
2000, and on their relevance and significance to the proposed listing 
of the Alabama sturgeon as endangered. The goal of the 2000 Strategy is 
``. . . to eliminate or significantly reduce current threats to the 
Alabama sturgeon and its habitat. . . . '' Reopening the comment period 
will allow all interested parties to submit comments on the 2000 
Strategy and its relevance and significance to the proposed listing of 
the Alabama sturgeon as endangered. The 2000 Strategy is available for 
review (See the SUPPLEMENTARY INFORMATION section under Comment 
Procedures for how to obtain these documents).

DATES: We will accept comments until March 17, 2000.

ADDRESSES: If you wish to comment, you may submit your comments by any 
one of several methods. You may mail or hand-deliver comments to Mitch 
King, at U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, 1875 Century Boulevard, Suite 
415, Atlanta, Georgia 30345. You may also comment via the Internet to 
mitch__king@fws.gov. See the SUPPLEMENTARY INFORMATION section for 
Comment Procedures.

section), 404-679-7180 (phone), 404-679-4180 (facsimile).



    On March 26, 1999, we published a rule proposing endangered status 
for the Alabama sturgeon in the Federal Register (64 FR 14676). On 
January 11, 2000, we published a notice in the Federal Register (65 FR 
1583), reopening the comment period through February 10, 2000. On 
February 7, 2000, we published a second notice in the Federal Register 
(65 FR 5848), reopening the comment period through March 8, 2000. With 
this notice, we are reopening the comment period through March 17, 
2000, to obtain comments on the substance of the 2000 Strategy and on 
the relevance and significance of the 2000 Strategy for the Alabama 
sturgeon on the listing decision.
    In 1997, a voluntary conservation effort was implemented and 
coordinated by ADCNR in order to address the primary threats to the 
Alabama sturgeon, which was identified as its small numbers and its 
apparent inability to offset mortality rates with reproduction and 
recruitment rates. The primary focus of this effort was to remedy the 
small population size through a captive breeding and restocking 
program. Secondarily, the effort provided habitat restoration measures 
and research to determine life history information essential to 
effective conservation and management of the species. A variety of 
public and private entities, including the Service, the Corps, the 
Rivers Coalition, the Geologic Survey of Alabama, and the Mobile River 
Basin Coalition participated in the implementation of this effort.
    During the three years of this effort, the participants had less 
success capturing Alabama sturgeon than was initially expected. The 
capture effort produced five Alabama sturgeon, two of which currently 
survive at the Marion State Fish Hatchery. The three year effort 
provided needed experience in the capture of Alabama sturgeon, 
especially with respect to the best method for collecting, the areas on 
the river most likely to yield Alabama sturgeon, and the best time of 
year to collect. The capture effort also resulted in the establishment 
of protocols for handling, transporting, and propagating Alabama 
sturgeon. In addition, collection efforts and work on other sturgeon 
species are producing information that could be valuable regarding the 
Alabama sturgeon. For example, recent collection efforts on the pallid 
sturgeon indicate that manipulating flows out of water control 
structures can increase collection success for that species.
    On February 9, 2000, the Service, ADCNR, the Corps, and the Rivers 
Coalition entered into the 2000 Strategy that expands upon the initial 
efforts undertaken in 1997. The 2000 Strategy includes a substantial 
change to the capture program. During the three years that the 1997 
effort was underway, a total of 250 field days were spent in the 
capture effort. Under the 2000 Strategy, a minimum total of 548 field 
days will be expended each year for the first three years.
    The parties to the 2000 Strategy signed the documents on February 
9, 2000, because of a desire to have implementation begin immediately 
while we are in a period of the year that has the best chance of 
capturing sturgeon. The 2000 Strategy is subject to amendment by 
consent of the parties.
    The reason the comment period has been reopened through March 17, 
2000, is to obtain public comment on the 2000 Strategy's relevance and 
significance to the upcoming listing decision. How the 2000 Strategy is 
relevant or significant (i.e., its effect on the underlying analysis of 
the listing factors in the proposed rule) should be a primary focus of 
comment during the public comment period. Any comments received 
concerning the 2000 Strategy will be fully considered by us in our 
final determination.

Public Comments Solicited

    We are seeking comments on the relevance and signficance of the 
2000 Strategy to the listing decision. Specifically, we are seeking 
input on whether:
    (1) The 2000 Strategy addresses the factors identified in the 
proposed listing rule to a degree that there is no longer a basis for 
listing the Alabama sturgeon;
    (2) The 2000 Strategy addresses the factors identified in the 
proposed listing rule to a degree that the listing determination would 
more appropriately be threatened instead of endangered. The 
Conservation Strategy could also be linked to a 4(d) rule;or,
    (3) The 2000 Strategy fails to address the factors sufficiently to 
have an effect on the listing determination, but still form the basis 
for a Section 7(a)(1) program, a Section 7(a)(2) consultation, a 
Section 10 permit for non-federal entities, and/or the core of a 
species recovery plan.
    We request comments or suggestions from the public, other concerned 
governmental agencies, the scientific community, industry, or any other 
interested party concerning the 2000 Strategy and its relevance and 
significance to the proposed listing of the Alabama sturgeon as 

Comment Procedures

    Please submit Internet comments as an ASCII file, avoiding the use 
of special characters and any form of encryption. Please also include 
``Attention: [Alabama sturgeon]'' and your name and return address in 
your Internet message. If you do not receive a confirmation from the 
system that we have received your Internet message, contact us directly 
at the address given in the ADDRESSES section or by telephone at 404-
679-7180. Finally, you may also hand-deliver comments to the address 
given in the ADDRESSES Section. Our practice is to make comments, 
including names and home addresses of

[[Page 7819]]

respondents, available for public review during regular business hours. 
Individual respondents may request that we withhold their home address 
from the rulemaking record, which we will honor to the extent allowable 
by law. There also may be circumstances in which we would withhold from 
the rulemaking record a respondent's identity, as allowable by law. If 
you wish us to withhold your name and/or address, you must state this 
prominently at the beginning of your comment. However, we will not 
consider anonymous comments. We will make all submissions from 
organizations or businesses, and from individuals identifying 
themselves as representatives or officials or organizations or 
businesses, available for public inspection in their entirety. Comments 
and materials received will be available for public inspection, by 
appointment, during normal business hours at the above address. To 
obtain copies of the 2000 Strategy, you can download or print one from 
http://endangered.fws.gov/listing/index.html (under Announcements) or 
contact Kelly Bibb at 404/679-7132 (phone) or 404/679-7081 (facsimile) 
to receive a faxed or mailed copy. All questions related to this notice 
should be directed to Mr. Mitch King at the address or phone number 
listed in the ADDRESSES section of this notice.


    The primary author of this notice is Mitch King (see ADDRESSES 

    Authority: The authority for this notice is the Endangered 
Species Act of 1973 (16 U.S.C. 1531 et seq.).

    Dated: February 11, 2000.
Sam D. Hamilton,
Regional Director, Fish and Wildlife Service.
[FR Doc. 00-3782 Filed 2-14-00; 12:13 pm]