Tom MacKenzie, Deputy, External Affairs (404) 679-7291
Connie Light Dickard, (334) 441-5181
After a year-long review, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service has
determined that revision of critical habitat for three endangered beach
mouse subspecies in Alabama and Florida is warranted.
The Service will reassess habitat for the Alabama, Perdido Key and
Choctawhatchee beach mice, prepare a proposed rule to designate new critical habitat and draft an economic analysis of the proposal at some point in the future.
"Once we determine what critical habitat changes are needed, we will
invite the public to comment on them before we reach a final decision." said Sam D. Hamilton, the Service's regional director for the Southeast Region.
The Service's action came in response to a petition filed last year by
the Earthjustice Legal Defense Fund, the Sierra Club and the Biodiversity Legal Foundation. The petitioners stated that the area now designated as critical habitat is inadequate and part of it is being destroyed by coastal development. The three beach mice subspecies were listed as endangered in 1985.
Critical habitat refers to specific geographic areas that are essential
for the conservation of a threatened or endangered species and that may require special management considerations. These areas do not necessarily have to be occupied by the species at the time of designation. A critical habitat designation does not set up a preserve or refuge and only applies to situations where Federal funding, Federal authorization or a Federal permit is involved. Even in cases where private lands are designated, it has no impact on private landowners taking actions on their land that do not involve Federal funding, authorization or permits.
The existing critical habitat for the three beach mouse subspecies
presently covers 2,890 acres, dispersed along 34 miles of Gulf of Mexico shoreline in Alabama and Florida. Most of this critical habitat is on Federal or state-managed lands.
The Service published its finding in today's Federal Register on the
Internet at: http://www.nara.gov/fedreg/. For additional information,
contact Celeste South or Connie Light Dickard at: U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, P.O. Drawer 1190, Daphne, AL 36526, or call 334/441-5181.
The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service is the principal Federal agency
responsible for conserving, protecting and enhancing fish, wildlife and
plants and their habitats for the continuing benefit of the American
people. The Service manages the 93-million-acre National Wildlife Refuge System which encompasses 525 national wildlife refuges, thousands of small wetlands and other special management areas. It also operates 66 national fish hatcheries, 64 fishery resource offices and 78 ecological services field stations. The agency enforces Federal wildlife laws, administers the Endangered Species Act, manages migratory bird populations, restores nationally significant fisheries, conserves and restores wildlife habitat such as wetlands, and helps foreign governments with their conservation efforts. It also oversees the Federal Aid program that distributes hundreds of millions of dollars in excise taxes on fishing and hunting equipment to state fish and wildlife agencies.