[Federal Register: April 6, 2004 (Volume 69, Number 66)]
[Proposed Rules]               
[Page 18016-18018]
From the Federal Register Online via GPO Access [wais.access.gpo.gov]



Fish and Wildlife Service

50 CFR Part 17

RIN 1018-AI77

Endangered and Threatened Wildlife and Plants; Proposed 
Designation of Critical Habitat for Astragalus magdalenae var. 
peirsonii (Peirson's milk-vetch)

AGENCY: Fish and Wildlife Service, Interior.

ACTION: Proposed rule; reopening of public comment period and notice of 
availability of draft economic analysis.


SUMMARY: We, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (Service), announce the 
availability of the draft economic analysis for the proposed 
designation of critical habitat for Astragalus magdalenae var. 
peirsonii (Peirson's milk-vetch) under the Endangered Species Act of 
1973, as amended. We also are reopening the public comment period for 
the proposal to designate critical habitat for this species to allow 
all interested parties to comment on the proposed rule and the 
associated draft economic analysis. Comments previously submitted on 
the proposed rule need not be resubmitted as they have been 
incorporated into the public record as part of this reopening of the 
comment period, and will be fully considered in preparation of the 
final rule.

DATES: We will accept all comments received on or before May 6, 2004. 
Any comments that we receive after the closing date may not be 
considered in the final decision on this proposal.

ADDRESSES: If you wish to comment, you may submit your comments and 
materials concerning this proposed rule by any one of several methods:
    (1) You may submit written comments and information to the Field 
Supervisor, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, Carlsbad Fish and Wildlife 
Office, 6010 Hidden Valley Road, Carlsbad, CA 92009.
    (2) You may hand-deliver written comments to our office, at the 
address given above, or fax your comments to (760) 431-9618.
    (3) You may send comments by electronic mail (e-mail) to 
fw1pmv@r1.fws.gov. Please see the Public Comments Solicited section 

below for file format and other information about electronic filing. In 
the event that our Internet connection is not functional, please submit 
your comments by the alternate methods mentioned above.

[[Page 18017]]

    Comments and materials received, as well as supporting 
documentation used in preparation of the proposed critical habitat 
rule, will be available for public inspection, by appointment, during 
normal business hours at the above address. You may obtain copies of 
the draft economic analysis for Astragalus magdalenae var. peirsonii by 
contacting the Carlsbad Fish and Wildlife Office at the above address. 
The draft economic analysis and the proposed rule for critical habitat 
designation also are available on the Internet at http://www.carlsbad.fws.gov/.
 In the event that our internet connection is not 

functional, please obtain copies of documents directly from the 
Carlsbad Fish and Wildlife Office.

FOR FURTHER INFORMATION CONTACT: Mr. Jim Bartel, Field Supervisor, 
Carlsbad Fish and Wildlife Office, at the address listed above 
(telephone (760) 431-9440 or facsimile (760) 431-9618).


Public Comments Solicited

    We intend any final action resulting from this proposal to be as 
accurate and as effective as possible. Therefore, we solicit comments 
or suggestions from the public, other concerned governmental agencies, 
the scientific community, industry, or any other interested party 
concerning the economic analysis or the proposed rule. We do not 
anticipate extending or reopening the comment period on the proposed 
rule after this comment period ends (see DATES). We particularly seek 
comments concerning:
    (1) The reasons why any habitat should or should not be determined 
to be critical habitat as provided by section 4 of the Act, including 
whether the benefits of critical habitat designation will outweigh any 
threats to the species resulting from designation;
    (2) Specific information on the amount and distribution of 
Astragalus magdalenae var. peirsonii and its habitat, and which habitat 
is essential to the conservation of this species and why;
    (3) Land use designations and current or planned activities in the 
subject area and their possible impacts on proposed habitat;
    (4) Any foreseeable economic or other impacts resulting from the 
proposed designation of critical habitat, in particular, any impacts on 
small entities or families,
    (5) Whether the economic analysis identifies all State and local 
costs. If not, what costs are overlooked;
    (6) Whether the economic analysis makes appropriate assumptions 
regarding current practices and likely regulatory changes imposed as a 
result of the designation of critical habitat, including whether it is 
a reasonable assumption that, even in the absence of regulatory 
restrictions from this designation, visitation at the Imperial Sand 
Dunes Recreation Area will not increase between 2013 and 2024, and if 
not, what rate of increase in visitation to the area is likely;
    (7) Whether the economic analysis correctly assesses the effect on 
regional costs associated with land use controls that derive from the 
    (8) Whether the designation will result in disproportionate 
economic impacts to specific areas that should be evaluated for 
possible exclusion from the final designation;
    (9) Whether the economic analysis appropriately identifies all 
costs that could result from the designation; and
    (10) Whether our approach to critical habitat designation could be 
improved or modified in any way to provide for greater public 
participation and understanding, or to assist us in accommodating 
public concern and comments.
    All previous comments and information submitted during the initial 
comment period on the proposed rule need not be resubmitted. If you 
wish to comment, you may submit your comments and materials concerning 
this rule by any one of several methods (see ADDRESSES section). Please 
submit Internet comments to fw1pmv@r1.fws.gov in ASCII file format and 
avoid the use of special characters or any form of encryption. Please 
also include ``Attn: Peirson's Milk-vetch Critical Habitat'' in your e-
mail subject header, and your name and return address in the body of 
your message. If you do not receive a confirmation from the system that 
we have received your Internet message, contact us directly by calling 
our Carlsbad Fish and Wildlife Office (see FOR FURTHER INFORMATION 
CONTACT section).
    Our practice is to make 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 addresses from the rulemaking record, which we will honor to 
the extent allowable by law. There also may be circumstances in which 
we would withhold from the rulemaking record a respondent's identity, 
as allowable by law. If you wish us to withhold your name and/or 
address, you must state this prominently at the beginning of your 
comment. 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. 
Comments and materials received will be available for public 
inspection, by appointment, during normal business hours at the above 


    Astragalus magdalenae var. peirsonii is a stout, short-lived 
perennial member of the Fabaceae (Legume Family). Plants develop 
extremely long tap roots (Barneby 1964) that penetrate deeply to the 
more moist sand and anchor the plants in the shifting dunes. A. 
magdalenae var. peirsonii occurs on open sand dunes in a vegetation 
community referred to as psammophytic scrub (Westec 1977); desert 
psammophytic scrub is described as being distinguished by a rather 
large number of plants restricted entirely or largely to an active dune 
area (Thorne 1982).
    Currently, the only known population of Astragalus magdalenae var. 
peirsonii remaining in the United States is located in the Algodones 
Dunes of Imperial County, California. This dune field is one of the 
largest in the United States, and one of the most popular for Off-
Highway Vehicle (OHV) use. The Algodones Dunes are often referred to as 
the Imperial Sand Dunes, a designation derived from their inclusion in 
the Imperial Sand Dunes Recreation Area (ISDRA) established by the 
Bureau of Land Management (BLM). Virtually all lands in the Algodones 
Dunes are managed by BLM. However, the State of California and private 
parties own some small inholdings in the dune area. Additional data on 
the biology and distribution of A. magdalenae var. peirsonii and 
impacts thereto can be found in the proposed rule to designate critical 
habitat for the taxon, published in the Federal Register on August 5, 
2003 (68 FR 46143).
    We listed Astragalus magdalenae var. peirsonii as threatened on 
October 6, 1998 (63 FR 53596), due to threats of increasing habitat 
loss from OHV use and associated recreational development, destruction 
of plants, and lack of protection afforded the plant under State law. 
In the Federal Register of August 5, 2003, we proposed to designate a 
total of approximately 52,780 acres (ac) (21,359 hectares (ha)) of 
critical habitat in Imperial County, California (68 FR 46143).
    Critical habitat identifies specific areas, both occupied and 
unoccupied, that are essential to the conservation of

[[Page 18018]]

a listed species and that may require special management considerations 
or protection. If the proposed rule is made final, section 7 of the Act 
will prohibit destruction or adverse modification of critical habitat 
by any activity funded, authorized, or carried out by any Federal 
agency. Federal agencies proposing actions affecting areas designated 
as critical habitat must consult with us on the effects of their 
proposed actions, pursuant to section 7(a)(2) of the Act.
    Section 4 of the Act requires that we consider economic and other 
relevant impacts prior to making a final decision on what areas to 
designate as critical habitat. We have prepared a draft economic 
analysis for the proposal to designate certain areas as critical 
habitat for Astragalus magdalenae var. peirsonii. This analysis 
considers the potential economic effects of designating critical 
habitat for A. magdalenae var. peirsonii. It also considers the 
economic effects of protective measures taken as a result of listing 
the species under the Act, and other Federal, State, and local laws 
that aid habitat conservation in areas proposed for designation.
    Limitations on future OHV access within the ISDRA will depend on 
the outcome of future management decisions. Future impacts could range 
from no effects to complete closure of critical habitat areas within 
the eight distinct BLM management areas. Pre-critical habitat economic 
benefits enjoyed by OHV users within the proposed critical habitat 
designation range from $0 for the North Algodones Wilderness (currently 
closed to OHV use) and Dune Buggy Flats management area (not proposed 
for designation) to $4.9 million per year for that portion of the 
Glamis management area proposed for designation. If all of the areas 
proposed for designation within the ISDRA were closed to OHV use, the 
annual consumer surplus impact would range from $8.9 million per year 
to $9.9 million per year.
    While future closures of areas are not anticipated to occur by 
either the Service or BLM, in the past the ISDRA has experienced 
closures of areas to OHV use to provide protection to Astragalus 
magdalenae var. peirsonii. Given the uncertainty of future management 
decisions, the economic analysis provides estimates of the potential 
total economic contribution of each ISDRA management area and that 
portion of each management area proposed as critical habitat. These 
total economic contribution estimates represent the upper bound of 
impacts that could result from closure of these areas to OHV use.
    We solicit data and comments from the public on the draft economic 
analysis, as well as on all aspects of the proposed rule to designate 
critical habitat for Astragalus magdalenae var. peirsonii. We may 
revise the proposal, or its supporting documents, to incorporate or 
address new information received during the comment period. In 
particular, 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.


    The primary author of this document is the Carlsbad Fish and 
Wildlife Office (see ADDRESSES section).
    The authority for this action is the Endangered Species Act of 
1973, as amended (16 U.S.C. 1531 et seq.).

    Dated: March 30, 2004.
Paul Hoffman,
Acting Assistant Secretary for Fish and Wildlife and Parks.
[FR Doc. 04-7694 Filed 4-5-04; 8:45 am]