[Federal Register: February 27, 2003 (Volume 68, Number 39)]
[Page 9094-9095]
From the Federal Register Online via GPO Access [wais.access.gpo.gov]



Fish and Wildlife Service

Draft Endangered Karst Invertebrate Survey Guidance, Draft Karst 
Feature Survey Guidance, Draft Preserve Design To Conserve Endangered 
Karst Invertebrates Guidance, and Draft Recommendations for Protection 
of Water Quality of the Edwards Aquifer

AGENCY: Fish and Wildlife Service, Interior.

ACTION: Notice of availability.


SUMMARY: The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (Service) provides an 
update on its intentions to revise and make available for public 
comment the following documents: (1) Draft karst feature survey 
guidance; (2) draft endangered karst invertebrate survey guidance; (3) 
draft preserve design to conserve endangered karst invertebrates 
guidance; and (4) draft recommendations for protection of water quality 
of the Edwards Aquifer. The first two documents are survey guidance for 
use in determining: (1) The presence of karst features that may contain 
potential habitat for karst invertebrates listed under the Endangered 
Species Act of 1973 (as amended) as endangered in central Texas; and 
(2) the presence/absence of endangered karst invertebrates within karst 
features determined to contain potential habitat. The first three 
documents have commonly been known as the ``Karst Protocols'' and the 
document that addressed water quality was often called ``water quality 

DATES: We will accept public comments on the approach proposed in this 
Notice until April 28, 2003.

ADDRESSES: Written comments and information should be submitted to 
Field Supervisor, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, Austin Ecological 
Services Field Office, 10711 Burnet Road, Suite 200, Austin, Texas 
78758 telephone (512) 490-0057; facsimile (512) 490-0974.

FOR FURTHER INFORMATION CONTACT: Field Supervisor, Austin Ecological 
Services Field Office (see ADDRESSES).



    Sixteen species of invertebrates known to occur in Bexar, Travis, 
Williamson and parts of Burnet counties, Texas, are currently listed as 
endangered under the Endangered Species Act. These invertebrates are 
only capable of surviving in caves or karstic rock. Karst ecosystems 
receive moisture and nutrients from the surface community in the form 
of leaf litter and other organic debris that are washed in or fall into 
the cave, from tree and other vascular plant roots, and/or through the 
feces, eggs or dead bodies of animals. In addition to providing 
nutrients to the karst ecosystem, the plant community also filters 
contaminants and buffers against changes in temperature and humidity. 
The major threats to karst invertebrates include the loss of habitat 
due to urbanization; contamination; predation by and competition with 
non-native fire ants; and vandalism.
    The Edwards Aquifer and associated springs, which includes the 
Southern, Barton Springs, and Northern segments, provide habitat for 9 
federally listed aquatic species, including three salamanders, two 
fish, three aquatic invertebrates and one plant. In addition, 3 
candidate species and many other unique aquatic species are also 
dependent upon water from the Edwards Aquifer. These species may be 
vulnerable to water quality degradation, particularly through 
pollutants entering the aquifer by storm water runoff from urban areas.
    The Service has reviewed the Karst Protocols and the Water Quality 
Recommendations, and decided that an alternative course of action is 
preferred because we need to ensure that a wider partnership is 
involved when providing guidance to the interested public. To the 
extent possible, the Service will use the recovery planning process to 
gain the public's review and comment on guidance meant to aid in the 
recovery of threatened and endangered species. Through this notice, the 
Service announces its intentions to do the following:
    (1) With respect to survey guidance for use in determining the 
presence of karst features that may contain potential habitat for 
endangered karst invertebrates in central Texas, the Service will work 
with the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality (TCEQ) and other 
partners to update as needed the existing TCEQ guidance on Karst 
Feature Surveys. The Service will recognize TCEQ's guidance as suitable 
guidance when surveying for karst features.
    (2) With respect to survey guidance for endangered karst 
invertebrates, the Service will request a panel of experts to review 
all new information regarding how to survey for karst invertebrates. 
The Service will use the panel's recommendations to modify the section 
10(a)(1)(A) permitting requirements and to develop karst invertebrate 
survey guidance on when to survey caves and how to survey for 
endangered karst invertebrates found in the caves. This guidance will 
be made available for review and comment though a Notice of 
Availability that will be published in the Federal Register by December 
30, 2003.
    (3) With respect to guidance for preserve design to conserve 
endangered karst invertebrates, the Service intends to incorporate the 
guidance as a component of the Service's Bexar County Invertebrate 
Recovery Plan. The draft recovery plan will be made available for 
review and comment. The Service no longer intends to issue

[[Page 9095]]

separate guidance on the establishment of karst preserves. 
Additionally, the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department, with the Service 
as a partner, will include ``no take'' guidance for these listed 
invertebrates as part of the species accounts that will be developed as 
a priority update to the revision of the 1995 Endangered and Threatened 
Animals of Texas document published by the Texas Parks and Wildlife 
Department. The Service will incorporate the ``no take'' guidance into 
the draft recovery plan for the species, which will be available for 
public review and comment.
    (4) With regard to recommendations for protection of water quality 
of the Edwards Aquifer, the Service does not intend to issue separate 
guidance. Instead, the draft Barton Springs Salamander Recovery Plan, 
which is scheduled to be completed in 2003, will include 
recommendations for protection of water quality in the Barton Springs 
    The Service states that prior versions of the Karst Protocols and 
Water Quality Recommendations are not rules, regulations, requirements, 
or project evaluation criteria of the Service and will not be used as 
such by the Service. The documents that have been used in the past as 
guidance do not create any legal obligations and have no binding legal 
effect, nor do they establish minimum standards or criteria required to 
be adopted by state or local governments. Should at any future time the 
Service decide that guidance on these subjects, other than as outlined 
above, is needed, the Service will make the draft guidance available 
for public review and comment for a period of not less than 60 days. At 
the conclusion of this period, the Service will determine whether to 
publish any final guidance documents on these topics and, if so, in 
what form.

    Authority: The authority for this action is the Endangered 
Species Act, as amended (16 U.S.C.1532 et seq.).

H. Dale Hall,
Regional Director, Region 2, Albuquerque, New Mexico.
[FR Doc. 03-4612 Filed 2-26-03; 8:45 am]