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Service seeks comments on draft economic analysis and proposed Critical Habitat for vermilion darter

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service is seeking comments on a draft economic analysis related to its proposal to designate critical habitat for an endangered fish, the vermilion darter.

The intent of the draft economic analysis is to identify and analyze the potential economic impacts associated with the proposed critical habitat designation for the vermilion darter that the Service published in the Federal Register on December 3, 2009 (74 FR 63366). The economic impact of the proposed critical habitat designation is analyzed by comparing scenarios both “with critical habitat” and “without critical habitat.” The incremental costs are those attributable solely to the designation of critical habitat, above and beyond the baseline costs (the costs incurred regardless of whether critical habitat is designated); these are the costs the Service may consider in the final designation of critical habitat. The draft economic analysis forecasts both baseline and incremental impacts of all potential conservation efforts for the vermilion darter associated with economic activities and conservation activities.

The draft economic analysis, published in the Federal Register today, finds that the proposed critical habitat designation for the vermilion darter will result in minimal incremental costs of about $39 annually.

The proposed critical habitat for the vermilion darter is in five units, totaling approximately 13 stream miles, and is located in Jefferson County, in and near Pinson, Alabama. The units are within the upper mainstem reaches of Turkey Creek and in four tributaries, including Beaver Creek, an unnamed tributary to Beaver Creek, Dry Creek, and Dry Branch.

Anyone interested in commenting on the draft economic analysis can also comment on the proposed critical habitat designation during the reopening of the public comment period, which will run until July 29, 2010.

The complete notice on the draft economic analysis, the draft economic analysis, and the proposed critical habitat rule can be obtained on the Internet at at Docket Number FWS-R4-ES-2009-0079 or by calling 601-321-1121 for a copy.

Written comments on the draft economic analysis and the proposed rule should be submitted by one of the following methods: (1) go the Federal eRulemaking Portal: and follow the instructions for submitting comments, or (2) send by U.S. mail or hand-delivery to: Public Comments Processing, Attn: Document ID Number FWS-R4-ES-2009-0079, Division of Policy and Directives Management; U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service; 4401 N. Fairfax Drive, Suite 222; Arlington, VA 22203.

If comments have been submitted previously, when the proposed rule was initially announced in December 2009, they do not need to be resubmitted. The Service will incorporate all comments into the public record and fully consider them as the final rule is prepared.

A final decision on whether or not to designate critical habitat will consider comments and information received by the July 29, 2010 comment-period deadline. All comments will be posted on, including any personal information provided.

The vermilion darter is a medium-sized fish, about 2.8 inches long, and was listed in 2001 as endangered under the Endangered Species Act. This darter is endangered due to the effects of urbanization on its habitat, such as: construction of impoundments; gravel extractions; road, pipe and bridge construction; and decreased water quality and flow. Currently the vermilion darter only occurs in sparse, isolated populations in the previously mentioned areas in Alabama that are being proposed for critical habitat designation. Surviving populations are highly vulnerable to habitat destruction, deterioration, and fragmentation.

At the time the vermilion darter was listed, the Service determined that designating critical habitat was prudent, but did not do so because of budgetary and resource constraints. On November 27, 2007, the Center for Biological Diversity filed a lawsuit against the Secretary of Interior for the Service’s failure to designate critical habitat, alleging that the agency’s prudency determination was arbitrary and not in accordance with law. In a court-approved settlement agreement, the Service agreed to make a new prudency determination, and if found to be prudent, then submit a proposed designation of critical habitat to the Federal Register by November 30, 2009, and a final designation by November 30, 2010. On December 3, 2009, the Service published a proposed designation of critical habitat for the vermilion darter in the Federal Register (74 FR 63367).


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