[Federal Register: May 16, 2002 (Volume 67, Number 95)]
[Proposed Rules]               
[Page 34893-34894]
From the Federal Register Online via GPO Access [wais.access.gpo.gov]



Fish and Wildlife Service

50 CFR Part 17

RIN 1018-AH33

Endangered and Threatened Wildlife and Plants; Designating 
Critical Habitat for the Appalachian Elktoe

AGENCY: Fish and Wildlife Service, Interior.

ACTION: Proposed rule; notice of public hearings, availability of draft 
economic analysis, and reopening of comment period for the proposed 
designation of critical habitat for the Appalachian elktoe.


SUMMARY: We, the Fish and Wildlife Service, announce that we will hold 
two public hearings on the proposed determination of critical habitat 
for the Appalachian elktoe (Alasmidonta raveneliana) and that the 
comment period on this proposal is reopened. We also announce the 
availability of the draft economic analysis of this proposed 
designation of critical habitat. We are reopening the comment period 
for the proposal to designate critical habitat for this species to hold 
the public hearings and to allow all interested parties to comment 
simultaneously on the proposed rule and the associated draft economic 
analysis. Comments previously submitted need not be resubmitted and 
will be fully considered in the final determination of the proposal.

DATES: Comments: The comment period is hereby reopened until July 1, 
2002. We must receive comments on the proposal and draft economic 
analysis from all interested parties by the closing date. Any comments 
that we receive after the closing date will not be considered in the 
final decision on this proposal.
    Public Hearings: The first public hearing on the proposal will be 
held June 4, 2002, from 6 p.m. to 9 p.m. in Erwin, TN, and the second, 
on June 6, 2002, from 6 p.m. to 9 p.m. in Bryson City, NC.

ADDRESSES: The first public hearing will be held in the auditorium of 
the Unicoi County High School, 700 Mohawk Drive, Erwin, TN. The second 
public hearing will be held in the Swain County Administration 
Building, Superior Court Room, 101 Mitchell Street, Bryson City, NC.
    Copies of the draft economic analysis are available on the Internet 
at http://southeast.fws.gov/hotissues or by writing to or calling the 
State Supervisor, Asheville Field Office, U.S. Fish and Wildlife 
Service, 160 Zillicoa Street, Asheville, NC 28801; telephone 828/258-
    If you wish to comment, you may submit your comments by any one of 

several methods:
    1. You may submit written comments and information to the State 
Supervisor, Asheville Field Office, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, 160 
Zillicoa Street, Asheville, NC 28801.
    2. You may hand-deliver written comments to our Asheville Field 
Office, at the above address or fax your comments to 828/258-5330.
    3. You may send comments by electronic mail (e-mail) to

[[Page 34894]]

john_fridell@fws.gov. For directions on how to submit electronic filing 
of comments, see the ``Public Comments Solicited'' section.
    4. You may provide oral and/or written comments at either of the 
public hearings.
    Comments and materials received, as well as supporting 
documentation used in preparation of this proposed rule, will be 
available for public inspection, by appointment, during normal business 
hours at the above address.

FOR FURTHER INFORMATION CONTACT: Mr. John A. Fridell, Fish and Wildlife 
Biologist, Asheville Field Office (see ADDRESSES section) (telephone 
828/258-3939, extension 225).



    The Appalachian elktoe is endemic to the upper Tennessee River 
drainage in western North Carolina and eastern Tennessee. Historic and 
recent records indicate that the species was once fairly widely 
distributed throughout the upper Tennessee River system in western 
North Carolina, with the possible exceptions of the Hiwassee and 
Watauga River systems. In Tennessee, the species is known only from a 
short reach of the Nolichucky River above the town of Erwin in Unicoi 
County, TN. Presently, the Appalachian elktoe survives only in 
scattered pockets of suitable habitat in portions of the Little 
Tennessee River system, Little River, and Pigeon River system in North 
Carolina; and, in portions of the Nolichucky River system in North 
Carolina and Tennessee. Numerous factors have been implicated as having 
contributed to decline and loss of populations of the Appalachian 
elktoe including pollutants in wastewater discharges; the runoff of 
sediment and other pollutants in poorly controlled runoff from land 
disturbance activities, and habitat destruction or alteration from 
impoundments, channelization, and in-stream dredging activities.
    We listed the Appalachian elktoe as an endangered species under the 
Endangered Species Act of 1973, as amended (Act), on November 23, 1994 
(59 FR 60324). On February 8, 2001, we published in the Federal 
Register a proposal to designate critical habitat for this species (66 
FR 9540). The proposed designation includes 38.5 kilometers (km) (24.0 
river miles (rm)) of the Little Tennessee River in Swain and Macon 
Counties, NC; 41.6 km (26.0 rm) of the Tuckasegee River in Jackson and 
Swain Counties, NC; 14.6 km (9.1 rm) of the Cheoah River in Graham 
County, NC; 7.5 km (4.7 rm) of the Little River in Transylvania County, 
NC; 17.8 km (11.1 rm) of the West Fork Pigeon River and the Pigeon 
River in Haywood County, NC; 22.6 km (14.1 rm) of the South Toe River 
and 26.4 km (16.5 rm) of the Cane River in Yancey County, NC; 5.9 km 
(3.7 rm) of the North Toe River and 34.6 km (21.6 rm) of the Toe River 
in Yancey and Mitchell Counties, NC; and 21.6 km (13.5 rm) of the 
Nolichucky River in Yancey and Mitchell Counties, NC, and Unicoi 
County, TN. The initial comment period on the proposal closed on April 
9, 2001.
    Section 4(b)(5)(E) of the Act requires that a public hearing be 
held if requested within 45 days of the proposal's publication in the 
Federal Register. Two groups requested public hearings within the 
specified timeframe of the initial comment period. One group requested 
hearings in every county where critical habitat is proposed; the other 
group requested hearings in every watershed where critical habitat is 
proposed. We will hold one public hearing in each State where we have 
proposed critical habitat to accommodate both requests (see DATES and 
ADDRESSES sections).
    Section 4(b)(2) of the Act requires that we designate or revise 
critical habitat based upon the best scientific 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. Consequently, we have prepared a draft 
economic analysis concerning the proposed critical habitat designation, 
which is available for review and comment (see ADDRESSES section).

Public Comments Solicited

    We solicit comments on the draft economic analysis described in 
this notice, as well as any other aspect of the proposed designation of 
critical habitat for the Appalachian elktoe. Anyone wishing to make an 
oral statement for the record at the public hearings is encouraged to 
provide a written copy of their statement to us at the start of the 
hearing. In the event there is a large attendance, the time allotted 
for oral statements may have to be limited. Oral and written statements 
receive equal consideration. There are no limits to the length of 
written comments presented at the hearings or mailed to us. Our final 
determination on the proposed critical habitat will take into 
consideration comments and any additional information received by the 
date specified above. All previous comments and information submitted 
during the comment period need not be resubmitted. Written comments may 
be submitted to the State Supervisor (see ADDRESSES section).
    Please submit electronic comments as an ASCII file format and avoid 
the use of special characters and encryption. Please also include 
``Attn: RIN 1018-AH33'' and your name and return address in your e-mail 
message. If you do not receive a confirmation from the system that we 
have received your e-mail message, please contact us directly by 
calling our Asheville Field Office (see ADDRESSES section).
    Our practice is to make all comments, including names and home 
addresses of 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. In some circumstances, we would withhold 
from the rulemaking record a respondent's identity, as allowable by 
law. If you wish for us to withhold your name and/or address, you must 
state this prominently at the beginning of your comments. 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 of organizations or 
businesses, available for public inspection in their entirety.


    The primary author of this document is John A. Fridell (see 
ADDRESSES section).

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

    Dated: April 26, 2002.
Craig Manson,
Assistant Secretary for Fish and Wildlife and Parks.
[FR Doc. 02-12175 Filed 5-15-02; 8:45 am]