[Federal Register: May 7, 2001 (Volume 66, Number 88)]
[Proposed Rules]               
[Page 22983-22984]
From the Federal Register Online via GPO Access [wais.access.gpo.gov]



Fish and Wildlife Service

50 CFR Part 17

RIN 1018-AG13

Endangered and Threatened Wildlife and Plants; Notice of New 
Schedule for Final Determination of Critical Habitat for Wintering 
Piping Plovers

AGENCY: Fish and Wildlife Service, Interior.

ACTION: Proposed rule; notice of 60-day delay for final determination 
of critical habitat.


SUMMARY: We, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, announce a 60-day 
delay in making our final determination of critical habitat for 
wintering piping plovers, subject to further court proceedings. This 
additional time will allow us to complete the analyses required under 
section 4(b)(2) of the Endangered Species Act of 1973, as amended 
(Act), for designation of critical habitat. We will publish our final 
determination in the Federal Register.

DATES: We will make our final determination on the designation of

[[Page 22984]]

critical habitat for wintering piping plovers by June 29, 2001.

ADDRESSES: Questions about this document should be directed to the 
Chief, Division of Conservation and Classification, U.S. Fish and 
Wildlife Service, 4401 North Fairfax, Room 420, Arlington, Virginia 

FOR FURTHER INFORMATION CONTACT: Chris Nolin at the above address or 
telephone (703) 358-2171.



    The piping plover (Charadrius melodus) is a small North American 
shorebird that breeds in the Great Plains, Great Lakes, and upper 
Atlantic Coast states; its wintering areas include the lower Atlantic 
and Gulf coasts of the United States. On December 11, 1985, we 
published a final rule (50 FR 50720), listing the piping plover as 
endangered in the Great Lakes watershed (Illinois, Indiana, Michigan, 
northeastern Minnesota, New York, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Wisconsin, and 
Ontario) and as threatened elsewhere within its range. All piping 
plovers on migratory routes outside of the Great Lakes watershed or on 
their wintering grounds are considered threatened. We did not designate 
critical habitat for the species at that time.
    In December 1996, Defenders of Wildlife (Defenders) filed a lawsuit 
against the Department of the Interior and the Service for failing to 
designate critical habitat for the Great Lakes population of the piping 
plover. Defenders filed a second similar lawsuit for the Northern Great 
Plains piping plover population in 1997. These lawsuits were 
subsequently combined (Defenders of Wildlife et al. v. Bruce Babbitt et 
al., Consolidated Cases Civil No. 1:96-CV-02695AER and Civil No. 1:97-
CV00777AER). In February 2000, the court issued an order directing us 
to publish a proposed critical habitat designation for the Great Lakes 
population of the piping plover by June 30, 2000. Publication of a 
similar proposal for nesting areas of the Northern Great Plains 
population of piping plover by May 31, 2001, was also ordered. A 
subsequent order directs us to finalize the critical habitat 
designations for the Great Lakes population by April 30, 2001, 
including its wintering habitat, and for the Northern Great Plains 
population by March 15, 2002.
    Since we cannot distinguish the Great Lakes and Great Plains birds 
on their wintering grounds, we felt it was appropriate to propose 
critical habitat for all wintering piping plovers collectively. 
Further, we determined that the appropriate course of action would be 
to propose critical habitat for all U.S.-wintering piping plovers on 
the same schedule required, under court order, for the Great Lakes 
breeding population. We proposed critical habitat for wintering piping 
plovers on July 6, 2000 (65 FR 41782), and published extensions of the 
comment period on August 30, 2000 (65 FR 52691), and October 27, 2000 
(65 FR 64414), so that the comment period closed on November 24, 2000. 
We later reopened the comment period from February 22, 2001, through 
March 1, 2001 (66 FR 11134), to accept additional information. The 
proposal includes 146 areas along the coasts of North Carolina, South 
Carolina, Georgia, Florida, Alabama, Mississippi, Louisiana, and Texas. 
This includes approximately 2,691 kilometers (1,672 miles) of shoreline 
along the Gulf and Atlantic coasts and along margins of interior bays, 
inlets, and lagoons.
    Section 4(b)(2) of the Endangered Species Act requires that we 
designate or revise critical habitat based upon the best scientific and 
commercial data available and after taking into consideration the 
economic impact, and any other relevant impact, of specifying any 
particular area as critical habitat. We may exclude an area from 
critical habitat if we determine that 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. We prepared and made available a draft economic analysis 
concerning the proposed critical habitat designation (65 FR 52691). We 
received considerable public comment on our draft analysis of the 
economic effects of the proposed critical habitat designation; we 
reopened the comment period the last time (66 FR 11134) primarily to 
accept additional information into the record on potential economic 
effects of the designation.
    Given the extent and detail of the comments on our draft economic 
analysis, and especially the significant portion of these comments that 
arrived after we reopened the comment period in late February, we were 
only able to develop a draft final economic analysis on April 17, 2001, 
and a revised draft one week later. We are currently reviewing this 
revised draft. The final economic analysis is a critically important 
part of the analysis required under section 4(b)(2) of the Act; without 
the economic analysis, we are unable to complete an adequate and 
effective 4(b)(2) analysis.
    We, therefore, have delayed by 60 days our final decision on 
critical habitat for wintering piping plovers. Since the current court 
order requires this decision to have been made by April 30, 2001, we 
have requested the court to extend the deadline by 60 days, or until 
June 29, 2001. We will base our final determination on material and 
information already in the record for this critical habitat 
determination and will publish our determination in the Federal 
    Elsewhere in the Federal Register today we are publishing a final 
rule designating critical habitat in the breeding areas of the 
endangered Great Lakes population of piping plovers. In addition, by 
May 30, 2001, we will make a proposed determination of critical habitat 
for the breeding areas of the threatened population of piping plovers 
in the northern Great Plains.


    The primary authors of this document are Wendi Weber and Patrick 
Leonard, Division of Conservation and Classification, Arlington, 


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

    Dated: April 30, 2001.
Marshall P. Jones, Jr.,
Acting Director, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.
[FR Doc. 01-11206 Filed 5-2-01; 12:41 pm]