Fish and Wildlife Service Invites Comments on Economic Analysis and Proposed Critical Habitat for the Mississippi Gopher Frog
December 14, 2010
Connie Light Dickard, USFWS, 601/321-1121, firstname.lastname@example.org
Tom MacKenzie, USFWS, 404/679-7291, email@example.com
In the Federal Register today, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service invites comments on the draft economic analysis of critical habitat proposed for the only federally listed frog in the continental Southeast, the Mississippi gopher frog.
The draft economic analysis estimates the incremental costs of critical habitat designation for the endangered frog to be $102,000 over the next 20 years, which is $9,610 in annualized impacts, assuming a seven percent discount rate.
The proposed critical habitat designation is for 1,957 acres within Forrest, Harrison, Jackson, and Perry counties in southern Mississippi. A total of 1,391 acres of the proposed critical habitat designation are in federal ownership, 96 acres are in state ownership, and 470 acres are in private ownership.
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 January 13, 2011.
The complete notice on the draft economic analysis and the proposed critical habitat rule can be obtained on the Internet at http://www.regulations.gov at Docket Number FWS-R4-ES-2010-0024 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: http://www.regulations.gov 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-2010-0024, 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 on June 3, 2010, 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 January 13, 2011 comment-period deadline. All comments will be posted on http://www.regulations.gov which will include any personal information provided.
The Mississippi gopher frog is a darkly colored, moderately sized frog with warts covering its back and dusky spots on its belly. The Service listed this species as endangered in 2001. It continues to be threatened by habitat loss and events such as droughts. This frog once ranged in portions of Mississippi, Louisiana, and Alabama but is now only found in southern Mississippi. Its four remaining populations are very small, with the largest population being about 100 adults. All four Mississippi gopher frog populations are included within the proposed critical habitat designation. Some areas currently unoccupied by the species are included within the designation as well because they provide suitable habitat and allow for population expansion.
As part of a settlement agreement, the Service agreed to re-evaluate the need for critical habitat for the species and if prudent, submit a proposed designation of critical habitat to the Federal Register by May 30, 2010, and a final designation by May 30, 2011.
Critical habitat is a term defined in the Endangered Species Act. It refers to specific geographic areas that are essential to the conservation of a threatened or endangered species and which may require special management considerations or protection. The designation of critical habitat will help ensure that federal agencies and the public are aware of the Mississippi gopher frog’s habitat needs and proper consultation is conducted by federal agencies when required by law.
A critical habitat designation does not set up a preserve or refuge and only applies to situations where federal funding or a federal permit is involved. It does not allow government or public access to private land. 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.
Since the Mississippi gopher frog is listed under the Endangered Species Act, it is already protected wherever it occurs. Federal agencies are required to consult on any action taken that might affect the species, whether or not critical habitat is designated.
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. Visit the Service’s website at http://www.fws.gov or http://www.fws.gov/southeast/
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