[Federal Register: October 23, 2001 (Volume 66, Number 205)]
[Proposed Rules]               
[Page 53573-53575]
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; 12-Month Finding 
for a Petition to Revise Critical Habitat for the Cape Sable Seaside 

AGENCY: Fish and Wildlife Service, Interior.

ACTION: Notice of 12-month petition finding.


SUMMARY: We, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (Service), announce a 
12-month finding on a petition to revise critical habitat for the Cape 
Sable seaside sparrow (Ammodramus maritimus mirabilis), under the 
Endangered Species Act of 1973, as amended (Act). After review of all 
available scientific and commercial information, we find that revision 
of critical habitat is warranted. Currently, most of our listing budget 
must be directed to complying with numerous court orders, settlement 
agreements, litigation related activities, and due and overdue final 
listing determinations. We will proceed with a proposal to revise 
critical habitat for the Cape Sable seaside sparrow as soon as 
feasible, considering our workload priorities and available funding. We 
continue to address habitat needs of the sparrow through coordination 
with agencies that manage land and water in South Florida.

ADDRESSES: The complete file for this finding, including comments and 
information submitted, is available for public inspection, by 
appointment, during normal business hours at the South Florida 
Ecological Services Office, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, 1339 20th 
Street, Vero Beach, FL 32960-3559.

telephone 561/562-3909, extension 230.

[[Page 53574]]



    Section 4(b)(3)(D)(ii) of the Act and our listing regulations (50 
CFR 424.14(c)(3)) require that within 12 months after receiving a 
petition that is found to present substantial information indicating 
that revision of a critical habitat may be warranted, we shall 
determine how we intend to proceed with the requested revision, and 
promptly publish notice of such intention in the Federal Register.
    On August 26, 1999, Mr. Sidney Maddock, Biodiversity Legal 
Foundation, submitted a petition to us, on behalf of himself, the 
Biodiversity Legal Foundation, the Florida Biodiversity Project, Brian 
Scherf, and Rosalyn Scherf, to revise critical habitat for the Cape 
Sable seaside sparrow. We received the petition on August 31, 1999.
    After considering the petition and review of all available 
scientific and commercial information, we found that the petition 
presented substantial information indicating that the requested action 
may be warranted. We published a notice announcing our finding in the 
Federal Register on July 10, 2000 (65 FR 42316).
    We designated critical habitat for the sparrow on August 11, 1977 
(42 FR 40685). Currently designated critical habitat encompasses about 
76,883 hectares (189,979 acres) in the southern Everglades along the 
eastern flank of Shark River Slough and along Taylor Slough. Most of 
the critical habitat is on Federal or State managed lands, including 
portions of Everglades National Park managed by the National Park 
Service, and portions of the Southern Glades Wildlife and Environmental 
Area managed by the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission. 
Major constituent elements within the designated critical habitat 
requiring special management considerations or protection were not 
described in detail in this designation.
    At the time the sparrow was listed, limited published information 
was available on the species' natural history and habitat requirements, 
and existing research had been conducted primarily on the sparrow's 
eastern habitats. To fill these gaps, much detailed research was 
conducted on the sparrow during the 1990s. Recent research has focused 
on determining natural history parameters, demographic parameters, and 
management strategies for habitat and populations. Agencies or 
organizations involved in these efforts include Everglades National 
Park, U.S. Geological Survey--Biological Resources Division, Army Corps 
of Engineers (Corps), and the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation 
Commission. Concerted efforts since the early 1990s have resulted in 
annual rangewide breeding season surveys, investigation of non-breeding 
season habitat use and movements, population modeling, habitat 
management including exotic vegetation and fire control, and a revised 
recovery plan. These efforts have expanded and refined our knowledge 
about critical habitat for the sparrow. Monitoring required for 
consultations under section 7 of the Act has also contributed to our 
database regarding critical habitat.
    We have reviewed the petition, the information provided in the 
petition, other literature, and information gathered since the previous 
critical habitat designation, as well as submitted comments and 
information. Based on the best scientific and commercial information 
available, we find that revision of critical habitat is warranted for 
the Cape Sable seaside sparrow. Based on this new information, some new 
areas will likely need to be added and others removed from the 
    Section 4(b)(3)(D)(ii) of the Act provides that with a 12-month 
warranted finding, we shall determine how we intend to proceed with the 
requested revision and publish such notice of our intention in the 
Federal Register. We have determined that the revision is warranted and 
we intend to proceed according to the following steps:

Habitat Assessment

    Criteria for designating critical habitat are provided in our 
regulations at 50 CFR 424. We must consider for inclusion in critical 
habitat those areas that meet physiological, behavioral, ecological, 
and evolutionary requirements that are essential to the conservation of 
a species and that may require special management considerations or 
protection. Such requirements include, but are not limited to: (1) 
Space for individual and population growth, and for normal behavior; 
(2) food, water, air, light, minerals, or other nutritional or 
physiological requirements; (3) cover or shelter; (4) sites for 
breeding, reproduction, rearing of offspring, germination, or seed 
dispersal; and (5) habitats that are protected from disturbance or are 
representative of the historic geographical and ecological distribution 
of a species.
    When considering how to revise the designation of critical habitat, 
we will focus on the principal biological or physical constituent 
elements that are essential to the Cape Sable seaside sparrow's 
conservation. Known primary constituent elements will be listed with 
the critical habitat. Areas that contain these primary constituent 
elements must be determined for the sparrow.
    We will designate as critical habitat areas essential to the 
conservation of the sparrow. The quantity and overall quality of 
habitat, ownership, land use, and connectivity with other sparrow 
habitat changes significantly from site to site. Once identified, the 
habitats must be delineated, mapped, and described for the proposed 
designation process. This process may include review of aerial 
photography, ownership maps, field ground truthing, locating landmarks 
or other geographical markers using survey techniques such as 
geographic positioning systems to locate latitude and longitude, with 
the final product being a usable map.

Economic Analysis

    Section 4(b)(2) of the Act requires us to designate critical 
habitat on the basis of the best scientific and commercial data 
available and to consider the economic and other relevant impacts of 
designating a particular area as critical habitat. We will conduct the 
economic analysis for the proposed critical habitat designation prior 
to making a final determination. We may exclude areas from critical 
habitat upon a determination that the benefits of such exclusions 
outweigh the benefits of specifying such areas as critical habitat. We 
cannot exclude such areas from critical habitat when such exclusion 
will result in the extinction of the species.

Proposed Revision

    We will develop and publish a proposed rule to revise critical 
habitat for the Cape Sable seaside sparrow as soon as feasible, 
considering our workload priorities and available funding. Currently, 
most of our listing budget must be directed to complying with numerous 
court orders, settlement agreements, litigation related activities, and 
due and overdue final listing determinations.


    We will coordinate with Federal, State, Tribal, local, and private 
landowners during the habitat assessment process.
    At this time, we are part of the Federal government's efforts to 
improve water management in the Everglades, and thus conserve species, 
including the Cape Sable seaside sparrow, that depend on appropriate 
water levels. In

[[Page 53575]]

1999, we issued a Jeopardy Biological Opinion to the U.S. Army Corps of 
Engineers (Corps) for the Modified Water Deliveries to Everglades 
National Park project, Experimental Water Deliveries Program, and the 
C-111 Project proposed by the Corps in South Florida. This opinion 
contains Reasonable and Prudent Alternatives (RPAs) that address all of 
the currently known subpopulations of the Cape Sable seaside sparrow. 
These RPAs include elements that are designed to protect and improve 
the habitat of all of these subpopulations, regardless of whether the 
specific location of that habitat is currently designated as critical 
habitat. As a result of that Opinion, we have been working with the 
Corps, Everglades National Park, and the South Florida Water Management 
District to establish water-management practices that will achieve the 
aims of the RPAs, including protection and improvement of all known 
areas where sparrows have been documented since the early 1980s. 
Efforts for protection of the sparrow and its habitat in the near 
future will include coordination with the Florida Fish and Wildlife 
Conservation Commission and the Miccosukee Tribe of Indians. Through 
this section 7 process and our work with the Federal and State agencies 
in south Florida, we will continue to protect and improve habitat for 
the Cape Sable seaside sparrow.


    The primary author of this document is David Martin (see ADDRESSES 


    The authority for this action is the Endangered Species Act (16 
U.S.C. 1531-1544).

    Dated: October 17, 2001.
Marshall P. Jones, Jr.,
Director, Fish and Wildlife Service.
[FR Doc. 01-26746 Filed 10-22-01; 8:45 am]