[Federal Register: April 22, 2003 (Volume 68, Number 77)]
[Page 19844-19845]
From the Federal Register Online via GPO Access [wais.access.gpo.gov]



Fish and Wildlife Service

Notice of Availability of an Agency Draft Recovery Plan for Five 
Freshwater Mussels--Cumberland Elktoe (Alasmidonta atropurpurea), 
Oyster Mussel (Epioblasma capsaeformis), Cumberlandian Combshell 
(Epioblasma brevidens), Purple Bean (Villosa perpurpurea), and Rough 
Rabbitsfoot (Quadrula cylindrica strigillata)--for Review and Comment

AGENCY: Fish and Wildlife Service, Interior.

ACTION: Notice of document availability and public comment period.


SUMMARY: We, the Fish and Wildlife Service, announce the availability 
of the agency draft recovery plan for five freshwater mussels--
Cumberland elktoe (Alasmidonta atropurpurea), oyster mussel (Epioblasma 
capsaeformis), Cumberlandian combshell (Epioblasma brevidens), purple 
bean (Villosa perpurpurea), and rough rabbitsfoot (Quadrula cylindrica 
strigillata). These species are endemic to the Cumberland and Tennessee 
River systems in Alabama, Kentucky, Mississippi, Tennessee, and 
Virginia. Recent research has greatly increased our understanding of 
the ecology of these species. The agency draft recovery plan includes 
specific recovery objectives and criteria to be met in order to 
downlist these mussels to threatened status or delist them under the 
Endangered Species Act of 1973, as amended (Act). We solicit review and 
comment on this agency draft recovery plan from local, State, and 
Federal agencies, and the public.

DATES: In order to be considered, we must receive comments on the draft 
recovery plan on or before June 23, 2003.

[[Page 19845]]

ADDRESSES: If you wish to review this agency draft recovery plan, you 
may obtain a copy by contacting the Asheville Field Office, U.S. Fish 
and Wildlife Service, 160 Zillicoa Street, Asheville, North Carolina 
28801 (Telephone 828/258-3939), or by visiting our recovery plan Web 
site at http://endangered.fws.gov/recovery/index.html #plans. If you 
wish to comment, you may submit your comments by any one of several 
    1. You may submit written comments and materials to the State 
Supervisor, at the above address.
    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 e-mail to bob_butler@fws.gov. For 
directions on how to submit electronic filing of comments, see the 
``Public Comments Solicited'' section.
    Comments and materials received are available on request for public 
inspection, by appointment, during normal business hours at the above 

FOR FURTHER INFORMATION CONTACT: Bob Butler at the above address 
(Telephone 828/258-3939, Ext. 235).



    We listed these five mussels as endangered species under the Act, 
on January 10, 1997. The five freshwater mussels are restricted to 
either the Cumberland River system (Cumberland elktoe), the Tennessee 
River system (purple bean and rough rabbitsfoot), or both of these 
river systems (oyster mussel and Cumberlandian combshell). They once 
existed in hundreds of stream miles and now survive in only a few 
relatively small, isolated populations in Alabama, Kentucky, 
Mississippi, Tennessee, and Virginia. Currently they are found in the 
Clinch River (Tennessee and Virginia), Duck River (Tennessee), 
Nolichucky River (Tennessee), Powell River (Tennessee and Virginia), 
Bear Creek (Alabama and Mississippi), Beech Creek (Tennessee), Buck 
Creek (Kentucky), Copper Creek (Virginia), Indian Creek (Virginia), 
Marsh Creek (Kentucky), Sinking Creek (Kentucky), Laurel Fork 
(Kentucky), Big South Fork (Kentucky and Tennessee), and several 
tributaries in the Big South Fork drainage (Rock Creek, in Kentucky; 
and the New River, Clear Fork, North Prong Clear Fork, Bone Camp Creek, 
Crooked Creek, North White Oak Creek, and White Oak Creek, all in 
    Habitat alteration continues to be the major threat to the 
continued existence of these species. This includes the negative 
effects of impoundments, channelization, mining, pollutants, 
sedimentation, and construction activities. Alien species (e.g., the 
zebra mussel, Dreissena polymorpha) and genetic factors associated with 
increasingly small and isolated populations are also factors 
contributing to the continued imperilment of these five mussels.
    Restoring an endangered or threatened animal or plant to the point 
where it is again a secure, self-sustaining member of its ecosystem is 
a primary goal of the endangered species program. To help guide the 
recovery effort, we are preparing recovery plans for most listed 
species native to the United States. Recovery plans describe actions 
considered necessary for conservation of the species, establish 
criteria for downlisting or delisting, and estimate time and cost for 
implementing recovery measures.
    The Endangered Species Act of 1973, as amended (16 U.S.C. et seq.) 
(Act), requires the development of recovery plans for listed species 
unless such a plan would not promote the conservation of a particular 
species. Section 4(f) of the Act, as amended in 1988, requires us to 
provide a public notice and an opportunity for public review and 
comment be provided during recovery plan development. We will consider 
all information presented during a public comment period prior to 
approval of each new or revised recovery plan. We and other Federal 
agencies will take these comments into account in the course of 
implementing approved recovery plans.
    We developed a technical draft of this recovery plan and released 
it for review by the professional community in 1998. We incorporated 
received comments where appropriate into this subsequent agency draft 
recovery plan, which we are now making available for review by all 
interested agencies and parties, including the general public.
    The objective of this draft plan is to provide a framework for the 
recovery of these five species so that protection under the Act is no 
longer necessary. As recovery criteria are met, the status of the 
species will be reviewed and they will be considered for removal from 
the Federal List of Endangered and Threatened Wildlife and Plants (50 
CFR part 17).

Public Comments Solicited

    We solicit written comments on the recovery plan described. We will 
consider all comments received by the date specified above prior to 
final approval of the plan.
    Please submit electronic comments as an ASCII file format and avoid 
the use of special characters and encryption. Please also include 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, 
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 
also 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 authority for this action is section 4(f) of the Endangered 
Species Act, 16 U.S.C. 1533 (f).

    Dated: April 4, 2003.
J. Mitch King,
Deputy Regional Director, Southeast Region, Fish and Wildlife Service.
[FR Doc. 03-9859 Filed 4-21-03; 8:45 am]