Draft Economic Analysis and Additional Crictical Habitat Units Proposed for the Coqui Guajón
The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service announced today the availability of a draft economic analysis on its proposal to designate critical habitat for the federally threatened guajón (Eleutherodactylus cooki) a Puerto Rican frog. The Service is also proposing to add five critical habitat units to the proposed critical habitat designation which was published October 5, 2006.
The draft economic analysis estimates potential future costs associated with the proposed designation to be $4.34 million over a 20-year period. Annual costs are estimated to be between $288,000 and $399,000. Most of the future costs are due to the expected costs of guajón conservation efforts during road construction, specifically the extension of Highway PR-53 in Maunabo.
Critical habitat is a term in the Endangered Species Act. It identifies geographic areas that contain features essential for the conservation of a threatened or endangered species and may require special management considerations or protection. The designation of critical habitat does not affect land ownership or establish a refuge, wilderness, reserve, preserve, or other conservation area. It does not allow government or public access to private lands. Federal agencies that undertake, fund or permit activities that may affect critical habitat are required to consult with the Service to ensure such actions do not adversely modify or destroy designated critical habitat.
The draft economic analysis of the proposed critical habitat designation for the guajón examines potential economic impacts associated with mitigating threats from road construction, agriculture, development, waste management, fishing and potential future administrative costs of Endangered Species Act consultations.
During the comment period for the proposed rule, the Service received letters from the Puerto Rico Department of Natural and Environmental Resources and the Center for Biological Diversity which included information on additional sites within the historical range of the guajón that were occupied at the time of listing and support suitable habitat for the species. Based on these comments and field visits to the sites, the Service is also proposing to include five additional critical habitat units totaling 43.4 acres (17.6 hectares). As a result of the inclusion of these additional units to the proposed critical habitat designation, critical habitat units will total 260.6 ac (105.55 ha) of private lands divided in 17 units within the municipalities of Juncos, San Lorenzo, Patillas, Maunabo, Yabucoa, Humacao and Las Piedras. All five proposed additional units are contiguous or connected to one or more of the units described in the proposed rule.
The Service is reopening the public comment period to request comments on the proposed critical habitat designation, the draft economic analysis of the proposed designation of critical habitat, and the proposed additional critical habitat units. Other than the amendments just described, the proposed rule of October 5, 2006 (71 FR 58953) remains intact. Other areas occupied by the guajón at the time of listing were not included because they are not currently occupied by the species and do not contain essential elements for the conservation of the guajón. Structures within each site such as roads, buildings, and paved areas are excluded from the proposal.
The Service is seeking public input and is particularly interested in comments concerning:
Threats to the species include deforestation and
earth movement for agricultural, urban and rural development, and highway
addition, the use of pesticides, herbicides, and fertilizers in adjacent
areas, illegal garbage dumping, and the effects of catastrophic natural
events such as droughts and hurricanes threaten the guajón.
Send written comments and information by July 19, 2007 to:
Edwin E. Muñiz
Economic Analysis of Critical Habitat Designation for the GUAJÓN -- (pdf)
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