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Critical Habitat Revision Warranted for Endangered Cape Sable Seaside Sparrow


October 23, 2001

Christine Eustis, 404/679-7287

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service announced today that a revision of critical habitat for the endangered Cape Sable seaside sparrow is warranted and it will propose a revised designation as soon as feasible, considering workload priorities and available funding.

"Since our review of all available scientific and commercial information has found the revision to be warranted, we will move forward on this revision when funding is available by reassessing habitat essential to the conservation of the Cape Sable seaside sparrow," said Sam Hamilton, the Serivice's regional director for the Southeast Region. "However, at this time, the Service's highest listing priorities are to comply with numerous court orders, settlement agreements, litigation related activities, and due and overdue final listing determinations."

"Once we determine what critical habitat changes are needed, we will invite the public to comment before we reach a final decision," Hamilton said.

Under the Endangered Species Act, a critical habitat designation establishes a geographic area that is essential for the conservation of a threatened or endangered species and may require special management considerations or protection. However, a designation does not set up a preserve or refuge, nor does it affect the activities of citizens engaged in private activities on their land. Rather, its sole impact is that federal agencies must consult with the Service on activities they authorize, take, or fund that might affect critical habitat, to insure that those activities do not destroy or adversely modify the critical habitat.

On August 26, 1999, Mr. Sidney Maddock, Biodiversity Legal Foundation, submitted a petition to the Service, on behalf of himself, the Biodiversity Legal Foundation, the Florida Biodiversity Project, Brian Scherf, and Rosalyn Scherf, to revise critical habitat for the Cape Sable seaside sparrow. The petition maintained that scientific evidence supports adding marl prairie habitat on the western flank of the Shark River Slough to the critical habitat designation, and removing areas of habitat that have been converted to agricultural use from the critical habitat designation.

The Cape Sable seaside sparrow was listed on March 1, 1967, under the Endangered Species Preservation Act of 1966, because of its limited distribution. It remains listed as an endangered species under the Endangered Species Act of 1973, as amended.

Critical habitat for the Cape Sable seaside sparrow, which was designated on August 11, 1977, consists of marl prairie habitat and some areas of former marl prairie that were converted to agricultural use subsequent to designation. The current critical habitat designation encompasses about 189,979 acres in the southern Everglades. Most of the land is federal or state managed lands. Critical habitat under public ownership includes portions of Everglades National Park, Big Cypress National Preserve managed by the National Park Service, and portions of the Southern Glades Wildlife and Environmental Area managed by the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission.

"An endangered species is protected no matter where it is," Hamilton said. "However, if you are a private landowner who is engaged in private activities that require no federal permit or funding, a critical habitat designation does not affect you."

The Service will conduct an economic analysis of the effect of designating critical habitat for the species as part of the revision. Under the Act, areas may be excluded from the designation if the economic impacts of designating them outweigh the benefit to the species, unless the exclusion would cause the extinction of the species.

The Service published its finding in today's Federal Register. Anyone who has questions may contact David Martin, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, 1339 20th Street, Vero Beach, Florida 32960, telephone 561/562-3909, extension 230.

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 94-million-acre National Wildlife Refuge System which encompasses more than 535 national wildlife refuges, thousands of small wetlands and other special management areas. It also operates 70 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.

The Cape Sable Seaside-sparrow Homepage

Why is the Cape Sable Seaside Sparrow Important?

The Everglades and the Cape Sable Seaside Sparrow

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2001 News Releases

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