The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service is releasing the estimated cost and economic impacts and draft environmental assessment of the proposed critical habitat designation of two freshwater mussels, and is seeking public comment.
The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service is releasing the estimated cost and economic impacts and draft environmental assessment of the proposed critical habitat designation of two freshwater mussels, and is seeking public comment. The two mussels, the Neosho mucket and the rabbitsfoot, are found in several Midwestern and southern states, including Missouri, Indiana, Illnois and Ohio.
Last year, the Service proposed to list the Neosho mucket as endangered, and the rabbitsfoot as threatened under the Endangered Species Act. The Service also proposed to designate critical habitat for these two mussels in 43 critical habitat units encompassing 2,138 river miles of stream channel in Alabama, Arkansas, Illinois, Indiana, Kansas, Kentucky, Mississippi, Missouri, Oklahoma, Ohio, Pennsylvania and Tennessee.
The Service has conducted a draft economic analysis of the proposed critical habitat designation, as required under the ESA. The analysis considered the potential impact of the designation on various sectors of the economy.
Based on the best available information, including extensive discussions with stakeholders, the Service estimates that the designation may cost $4.4 million to $5.9 million over 20 years, or $4,400,000.
The majority of these costs are administrative and may be borne by federal and state agencies; however, some costs may be incurred by local governments and businesses. These costs stem from the requirement for federal agencies to consult with the Service regarding the impacts of their actions, or those that they fund or authorize, on critical habitat.
Transportation and utility activities are likely to be subject to the greatest impacts at $1,400,000 over the next 20 years; followed by timber, agriculture, and grazing at $960,000; development at $760,000; other (animal and biological control, prescribed burns, land clearing, bank stabilization, habitat or shoreline restoration) at $530,000; oil and gas development at $320,000; water flow management at $190,000; water quality management at $120,000, and mining at $71,000. The Service anticipates the proposed designation will have minimal effects on 227 entities or small businesses annually.
Critical habitat refers to specific geographic areas that are essential to the conservation of a threatened or endangered species. The designation of critical habitat will help ensure that federal agencies and the public are aware of the mussels' 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.
Seventy-two miles, or four percent of the proposed critical habitat, is currently already designated critical habitat for two other species (yellowcheek darter and oyster mussel - now called the Duck River dartersnapper).
The Service has completed a draft environmental assessment of the proposed critical habitat designation, as required under the National Environmental Policy Act. The draft environmental assessment found the preferred alternative of designating critical habitat for the Neosho mucket and rabbitsfoot at the 43 proposed locations would not have significant impacts to people or their activities.
More details on the methods used to assess impacts to the human environment are available in the draft environmental assessment.
The draft economic analysis and draft environmental assessment is available at www.regulations.gov, Docket # FWS–R4–ES–2013–0007, or on the Service's website at www.fws.gov/midwest/endangered
The Service is re-opening the public comment period for 30 days. The public may mail comments and materials concerning the draft economic analysis and draft environmental assessment or any aspect of the proposed rule to Public Comments Processing, Attn: FWS–R4–ES–2012–0031; Division of Policy and Directives Management; U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service; 4401 North Fairfax Drive, MS 2042–PDM; Arlington, VA 22203. Comments also can be filed electronically at http://www.regulations.gov.
All comments must be received by June 10, 2013, and must include a first and last name, city, state, country and zip code. Any comments and materials we receive, as well as supporting documentation used in preparing this proposed rule, will be available for public inspection on http://www.regulations.gov, or by appointment during normal business hours, at the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service Ecological Services, 110 South Amity Road, Suite 300, Conway, AR, 72032; by telephone 501-513-4475.
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. For more information on our work and the people who make it happen, visit www.fws.gov/southeast.
Proposed critical habitat for the Neosho mucket is located in:
• Benton and Washington Counties, Arkansas;
• Allen, Chase, Cherokee, Coffey, Elk, Greenwood, Labette, Montgomery, Neosho, Wilson, and Woodson Counties, Kansas;
• Jasper, Lawrence, McDonald, and Newton Counties, Missouri; and
• Adair, Cherokee, and Delaware Counties, Oklahoma.
Proposed critical habitat for the rabbitsfoot is located in:
• Colbert, Jackson, Madison, and Marshall Counties, Alabama;
• Arkansas, Ashley, Bradley, Clark, Cleveland, Dallas, Drew, Fulton, Grant, Hot Spring, Independence, Izard, Jackson, Lawrence, Little River, Marion, Monroe, Montgomery, Newton, Ouachita, Randolph, Saline, Searcy, Sevier, Sharp, Van Buren, White, and Woodruff Counties, Arkansas;
• Allen and Cherokee Counties, Kansas;
• Ballard, Green, Hart, Livingston, Logan, Marshall, and McCracken Counties, Kentucky;
• Massac, Pulaski, and Vermilion Counties, Illinois;
• Carroll, Pulaski, Tippecanoe, and White Counties, Indiana;
• Hinds, Sunflower, Toshimingo, and Warren Counties, Mississippi;
• Jasper, Madison, and Wayne Counties, Missouri;
• Coshocton, Madison, Union, and Williams Counties, Ohio;
• McCurtain and Rogers Counties, Oklahoma;
• Crawford, Erie, Mercer, and Venango Counties, Pennsylvania; and
• Hardin, Hickman, Marshall, Maury, and Robertson Counties, Tennessee.