[Federal Register: September 26, 2001 (Volume 66, Number 187)]
[Proposed Rules]               
[Page 49158-49159]
From the Federal Register Online via GPO Access [wais.access.gpo.gov]



Fish and Wildlife Service

50 CFR Part 17

RIN 1018-AH40

Endangered and Threatened Wildlife and Plants; Notice of a Public 
Hearing and Extension of Comment Period for Proposed Endangered Status 
for the Sacramento Mountains Checkerspot Butterfly and Proposed 
Designation of Critical Habitat

AGENCY: Fish and Wildlife Service, Interior.

ACTION: Proposed rule; notice of public hearing and extension of 
comment period.


SUMMARY: We, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (Service), give notice 
that we are holding a public hearing for the proposed rule to list the 
Sacramento Mountains checkerspot butterfly (Euphydryas anicia 
cloudcrofti) as endangered with critical habitat under the authority of 
the Endangered Species Act (Act) of 1973, as amended (16 U.S.C. 1531 et 
seq.). We also give notice of the extension of the comment period for 
the proposed rule for the Sacramento Mountains checkerspot butterfly. 
The extension of the comment period will be for 30 additional days 
(until December 5, 2001). We invite all interested parties to submit 
comments on this proposal. The extension of the comment period will 
allow all interested parties to submit written comments on the 
proposal. Comments already submitted on the proposed rule need not be 
resubmitted as they will be fully considered in the final 

DATES: We will hold a public hearing at the Alamogordo Civic Center, 
800 East First Street, Alamogordo, New Mexico, from 6 to 8 p.m. on 
Thursday, October 18, 2001, to solicit comments on the proposed rule to 
list the Sacramento Mountains checkerspot butterfly as endangered with 
critical habitat. The comment period for this proposal now closes on 
December 5, 2001. Comments must be received by the closing date. We 
will consider all comments received at the public hearing or those 
submitted in writing by December 5, 2001, the closing date of the 
comment period on this proposal.

ADDRESSES: You may submit written comments and materials concerning the 
proposal at the hearing or send them directly to Joy Nicholopoulos, 
Field Supervisor, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, New Mexico Ecological 
Services Field Office, 2105 Osuna NE, Albuquerque, New Mexico, 87113. 
Written comments may also be sent by facsimile to (505) 346-2542 or 
through the Internet to R2FWE_AL@fws.gov. All comments, including names 
and addresses, will become part of the administrative record and may be 
released. You may also hand-deliver written comments to our New Mexico 
Ecological Services Field Office, at the above address. Comments and 
materials received, as well as supporting documentation used in the 
preparation of this proposed rule, will be available for public 
inspection, by appointment, during normal business hours from 8:00 a.m. 
to 4:30 p.m., at the above address. You may obtain copies of the 
proposed rule from the above address, by calling 505/346-2525, ext. 
135, or from our website at http://ifw2es.fws.gov/Library/.

Biologist, New Mexico Ecological Services Field Office, at the above 
address (telephone 505/346-2525, ext. 135; facsimile 
505/346-2542) or visit our website at http://ifw2es.fws.gov/.



    On December 27, 1999, we published a substantial 90-day finding 
indicating that listing the Sacramento Mountains checkerspot butterfly 
may be warranted and initiated a status review for the required 12-
month finding (64 FR 72300). On September 6, 2001, we published a 
proposed rule to list the butterfly as endangered with critical habitat 
under the Endangered Species Act of 1973, as amended (Act) (66 FR 
46575). The proposed rule constitutes our 12-month administrative 
finding. The 60-day public comment period on the proposed rule is 
extended and now closes on December 5, 2001. In the proposed rule, we 
determined that much of the remaining suitable habitat, and the long 
term persistence of the subspecies, is threatened by the direct and 
indirect effects, or some combination thereof, of commercial and 
private development, Forest Service projects (e.g., campground 
reconstruction, powerline construction, road maintenance), fire 
suppression activities, highway reconstruction, off-highway vehicle 
use, trampling, and overgrazed range conditions (66 FR 46575). The 
butterfly is also threatened by encroachment of conifers and non-native 
vegetation into non-forested openings, over collection, and, due to its 
limited range, vulnerability to local extirpations from extreme weather 
events or catastrophic wildfire. We concluded that the extent of known 
localities and the non-forested suitable habitat, and the quality of 
the remaining suitable habitat are threatened. We expect the 
significant amount of habitat conversion from commercial and private 
development, which has occurred over the last several decades, will 
increase and continue to further degrade or eliminate the quality and 
quantity of Sacramento Mountains checkerspot butterfly habitat, placing 
the animal in danger of extinction throughout all or a significant 
portion of its range. The butterfly is vulnerable because of its 
limited range, over collection, and habitat degradation.
    If the proposed rule is finalized, section 7(a)(2) of the Act would 
require that Federal agencies ensure that actions they fund, authorize, 
or carry out are not likely to result in the ``destruction or adverse 
modification'' of critical habitat. Section 4 of the Act requires us to 
consider economic and other relevant impacts that could arise from 
specifying any particular area as critical habitat. We request data and 
comments from the public and all interested parties on all aspects of 
the proposal, including data on economic and other impacts of the 
proposed designation.
    We stated in the proposed rule that should a public hearing be 
requested, then we would announce the date, time, and place for the 
hearing in the Federal Register and local newspapers at least 15 days 
prior to the hearing. This notice provides information regarding that 
hearing and extends the comment period an additional 30 days.
    Public hearings are designed to gather relevant information that 
the public may

[[Page 49159]]

have that we should consider in our rule-making. During the hearing, we 
will present information about the proposed action. We invite the 
public to submit information and comments either at the hearings or in 
writing. This notice and public hearing will allow all interested 
parties to submit comments on the proposed rule and proposed 
designation. We are seeking comments or suggestions from the public, 
other concerned governmental agencies, tribes, the scientific 
community, industry, or any other interested parties concerning the 
    We may have to limit the time allotted for oral statements, if the 
number of people who wish to comment necessitates such a limitation. We 
encourage persons wishing to comment at the hearings to provide a 
written copy of their statement at the start of the hearing. There is 
no limit on the length of written comments. Persons may send written 
comments to our office (see ADDRESSES section) at any time during the 
open comment period, which is extended and now closes on December 5, 
2001. We will give equal consideration to oral and written comments. We 
are publishing legal notices announcing the date, time, and location of 
the hearing in newspapers, concurrently with this Federal Register 

National Environmental Policy Act

    It is our position that, outside the Tenth Circuit, we do not need 
to prepare environmental analyses as defined by the National 
Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) in connection with designating critical 
habitat under the Endangered Species Act of 1973, as amended. We 
published a notice outlining our reasons for this determination in the 
Federal Register on October 25, 1983 (48 FR 49244). This assertion was 
upheld in the courts of the Ninth Circuit (Douglas County v. Babbitt, 
48 F.3d 1495 (9th Cir. Ore. 1995), cert. denied 116 S. Ct. 698 (1996). 
However, when the range of the species includes States within the Tenth 
Circuit, such as that of the Sacramento Mountains checkerspot 
butterfly, pursuant to the Tenth Circuit ruling in Catron County Board 
of Commissioners v. U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, 75 F.3d 1429 (10th 
Cir. 1996), we will undertake a NEPA analysis for the critical habitat 
designation. We will notify the public of the availability of the draft 
NEPA document for this proposal so that interested and affected parties 
may participate and contribute to a final decision. The draft NEPA 
document will be sent out for a minimum 45-day public comment period, 
during which comments will be solicited.
    In addition, we will conduct a robust economic analysis on the 
effects of the proposed critical habitat designation prior to a final 
determination. We will conduct an analysis that complies with the 
ruling by the Tenth Circuit Court of Appeals in New Mexico Cattle 
Growers Association, et. al. v. U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. When 
the draft economic analysis is completed, we will announce its 
availability with a notice in the Federal Register, and we will reopen 
the comment period at that time to accept comments on the draft 
economic analysis, draft NEPA document, or further comment on the 
proposed rule. We will also transmit the draft documents to all who 
commented on the proposed rule, and send the documents to anyone who 
requests a copy. We are particularly interested in comments or 
suggestions on reasons why any particular area should or should not be 
designated as critical habitat, information on the distribution and 
quality of habitat for the Sacramento Mountains checkerspot butterfly, 
land use practices and current or planned activities in areas that may 
be affected by a designation of critical habitat, and any other 
pertinent issues of concern.
    Author: The primary author of this notice is Eric Hein (see 
ADDRESSES section).

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

    Dated: September 17, 2001.
Nancy M. Kaufman,
Regional Director, Region 2.
[FR Doc. 01-24037 Filed 9-25-01; 8:45 am]