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New Critical Habitat Decision From Fws

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This is a long document, so I'll post just the beginning here and then post the link to retrieve the rest.

[Federal Register: July 27, 2007 (Volume 72, Number 144)]

[Proposed Rules]

[Page 41258-41284]

From the Federal Register Online via GPO Access [wais.access.gpo.gov]

[DOCID:fr27jy07-15]

=======================================================================

-----------------------------------------------------------------------

DEPARTMENT OF THE INTERIOR

Fish and Wildlife Service

50 CFR Part 17

RIN 1018-AU98

Endangered and Threatened Wildlife and Plants; Revised Critical

Habitat for Astragalus magdalenae var. peirsonii

AGENCY: Fish and Wildlife Service, Interior.

ACTION: Proposed rule; notice of availability of the draft economic

analysis; notice of public hearings.

-----------------------------------------------------------------------

SUMMARY: We, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (Service), propose to

revise currently designated critical habitat for Astragalus magdalenae

var. peirsonii (Peirson's milk-vetch) pursuant to the Endangered

Species Act of 1973, as amended (Act). In total, approximately 16,108

acres (ac) (6,519 hectares (ha)) in Imperial County, California, fall

within the boundaries of the proposed revised critical habitat

designation. Lands being proposed as critical habitat are under Federal

(15,857 ac (6,418 ha)), private (240 ac (97 ha)), and State (11 ac (4

ha)) ownership.

Section 4 of the Act requires us to consider the economic and other

relevant impacts of specifying any area as critical habitat. We have

conducted an analysis of the economic impacts of designating the

aforementioned areas as critical habitat for Astragalus magdalenae var.

peirsonii, and are announcing the availability of the draft economic

analysis for public review. We hereby solicit data and comments from

the public on all aspects of this revised proposal, including data on

the economic and other impacts of the designation.

We are also announcing that public hearings will be held on both

the proposed critical habitat rule and the draft economic analysis.

DATES: We will accept comments from all interested parties until

September 25, 2007. The public hearings will take place on August 23,

2007, from 1 p.m. to 3 p.m. and from 6 p.m. to 8 p.m. at the Carlsbad

Fish and Wildlife Office in Carlsbad, California (see ADDRESSESS).

ADDRESSES: Public Hearings. The public hearings will be held at the

Carlsbad Fish and Wildlife Office, 6010 Hidden Valley Road, Carlsbad,

California, 92011.

Comments. If you wish to comment on the proposed rule and/or the

draft economic analysis, you may submit your comments and materials,

identified by RIN 1018-AU98, by any of the following methods:

(1) You may send comments by electronic mail (e-mail) to

fw8cfwocomments@fws.gov. Include ``RIN 1018-AU98'' in the subject line.

(2) You may fax your comments to Jim Bartel, Field Supervisor,

Carlsbad Fish and Wildlife Office at 760-431-5901.

(3) You may mail or hand-deliver your written comments and

information to Jim Bartel, Field Supervisor, Carlsbad Fish and Wildlife

Office at the address above.

(4) You may submit your comments at the Federal eRulemaking Portal,

http://www.regulations.gov. Follow the instructions for submitting

comments.

Comments and materials received, as well as supporting

documentation used in the preparation of this proposed rule, will be

available for public inspection, by appointment, during normal business

hours at the Carlsbad Fish and Wildlife Office at the above address

(telephone 760-431-9440). Copies of the draft economic analysis are

available for downloading from the Internet at http://www.fws.gov/carlsbad/

or by contacting the Carlsbad Fish and Wildlife Office

directly at the above phone number or address.

FOR FURTHER INFORMATION CONTACT: Jim Bartel, Field Supervisor, Carlsbad

Fish and Wildlife Office, at the address listed under ADDRESSES

(telephone 760-431-9440; facsimile 760-431-5901). Persons who use a

telecommunications device for the deaf (TDD) may call the Federal

Information Relay Service (FIRS) at 800-877-8339, 24 hours a day, 7

days a week.

Here is the link to the entire document.

VW

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This ruling, if adopted, will result in a reduction of critical habit by about 5,000 acres. But before we get too excited, this new ruling is also based on currently (temporarily) closed areas and special management actions are being considered when making this ruling. My next post shows some of the reasons for being cautiously optimistic.

Summary of Changes From Previously Designated Critical Habitat

The areas identified in this proposed rule constitute a proposed

revision of the areas we proposed to designate as critical habitat for

Astragalus magdalenae var. peirsonii on August 5, 2003 (68 FR 46143),

and designated on August 4, 2004 (69 FR 47330). The main differences

include the following:

1. This proposed revision includes 16,108 ac (6,519 ha) of land in

Imperial County, California, a reduction of 36,672 acre (14,840 ha)

from the 2003 proposed rule (68 FR 46143) and 5,728 ac (2,329 ha) from

the 2004 final critical habitat rule (69 FR 47330). The differences in

data and selection criteria between the currently designated critical

habitat and this proposed revision are described further below.

2. The reduction in total acreage from the 2003 proposed critical

habitat designation is primarily the result of a revised methodology to

delineate critical habitat. The model used to delineate critical

habitat boundaries in the 2003 proposed rule was based primarily on

species survey data collected by the BLM from 1998 through 2002 along

transects throughout the areas of the Algodones Dunes occupied by

Astragalus magdalenae var. peirsonii. Each transect was composed of a

series of grid squares measuring approximately 0.45 mi\2\. In order to

create the model, we used the coarse scale BLM survey data to

extrapolate the values for four variables: (1) The presence or absence

of standing plants of A. m. var. peirsonii; (2) the abundance of A. m.

var. peirsonii; (3) the frequency of occurrence of A. m. var. peirsonii

over the survey years; and (4) the number of associated rare

psammophytic plant taxa present. These variables were scored, then

standardized, and finally compiled. Because of the dynamic nature of

the distribution of this plant, the cyclic nature of suitable climatic

regimes, and the presence of a seed bank for A. m. var. peirsonii, grid

squares where this plant was not found were included in critical

habitat if they were contiguous with occupied grid squares (68 FR

46143). The data used to create the 2003 model was considered the best

available at that time and allowed us to identify areas known to be

occupied by A. m. var. peirsonii as well as areas likely to be occupied

based on the presence of suitable habitat (e.g. presence of associated

psammophytic plant taxa).

As discussed in the ``Background'' and ``Criteria Used to Identify

Critical Habitat'' sections of this proposed rule, the model used to

delineate revised critical habitat boundaries in this revised proposed

rule is based on survey data collected by BLM in 2005 (Willoughby

2005b). A higher than average rainfall occurred during the 2004-2005

growing season, resulting in the highest Astragalus magdalenae var.

peirsonii densities to date. Based on these survey data, our revised

model uses occupancy and density to outline areas known to be occupied

by the species. The model used to delineate the revised proposed

critical habitat is based on data collected along a larger number of

transects (510 versus 34) during a year of the highest recorded A. m.

var. peirsonii abundance. Therefore, the data are more robust, relying

primarily on occupancy documented over a larger area of the dunes and

at a finer spatial resolution (25 m\2\ grid cells) during optimal

environmental conditions instead of on the presence of suitable habitat

(e.g., the presence of associated rare psammophytic plant taxa) as did

the 2003 model.

In summary, we consider the model used to delineate revised

critical habitat boundaries in this proposed rule to more accurately

depict the areas known to be occupied by the species than the model

used to delineate the 2003 proposed critical habitat boundaries. We

believe that the 2003 designation was more inclusive due to limited

data and the rough spatial scale of the data, and the 2005 data now

provide more specific and reliable information regarding abundance and

distribution, allowing us to more precisely identify habitat essential

to the conservation of the species associated with core population

areas. Based on the new model, we determined that 36,535 ac (14,785 ha)

previously proposed as critical habitat in 2003 are not essential to

the conservation of the taxon, and therefore did not include these

areas in the revised proposed critical habitat designation.

3. Of the 16,108 ac (6,519 ha) included in this proposed revision

to critical habitat, 14 ac (6 ha) in Subunit 3B, 331 ac (134 ha) in

Subunit 3C, and 75 ac (30 ha) in Unit 4 were not included in the 2003

proposed critical habitat rule. Also, 9,573 ac (3,874 ha) in Subunits

2A, 2B, 3A, 3B, 3C and all of Unit 4 (218 ac (88 ha)) were not included

in the 2004 final rule (see Table 2 below). These 9,573 ac (3,874 ha)

were excluded in the 2004 final rule under section 4(b)(2) of the Act

as the Secretary determined that the economic benefits of excluding

these lands outweighed the conservation benefits of including these

lands in the designation due to the large potential economic and human

costs of the designation (69 FR 47330). These lands are again under

consideration for critical habitat in this proposed revision to

critical habitat.

All lands proposed for critical habitat have been re-evaluated in a

revised economic analysis, consistent with the lawsuit discussed in the

``Previous Federal Actions'' section of this proposed rule. The new

draft economic analysis is available for public review and comment

concurrently with this rule (see ``Economic Analysis'' section below).

Based on public comment and information in the economic analysis,

habitat being proposed as critical habitat herein may be excluded from

final critical habitat by the Secretary under the provisions of section

4(b)(2) of the Act and in our implementing regulations at 50 CFR

424.19. Table 2 below outlines the changes in Unit/Subunit number and

area between the 2003 proposed critical habitat rule, the 2004 final

critical habitat rule, and the 2007 revised proposed critical habitat

rule for Astragalus magdalenae var. peirsonii.

Edited by SailAway

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Here's a description of the different areas that make up the critical habitat acres:

We present brief descriptions of all units, and reasons why they

meet the definition of critical habitat for Astragalus magdalenae var.

peirsonii, below.

Unit 1--Mammoth Wash/North Algodones Dunes Wilderness (4,675 ac (1,892

ha))

Unit 1 consists of 4,675 ac (1,892 ha) of land, further divided

into 4 subunits (1A, 1B, 1C, 1D), primarily under BLM ownership (Table

2). This unit includes land in the BLM's Mammoth Wash and North

Algodones Dunes Wilderness Management Areas.

Subunits 1A (421 ac (170 ha)) and 1B (1,411 ac (571 ha))

Subunits 1A and 1B are in the Mammoth Wash area. About half of the

land in Subunit 1A is under BLM ownership, and the other half is under

private ownership (Table 2). The majority of the land in Subunit 1B is

owned by the BLM (Table 2). Both subunits were occupied at the time of

listing, are currently occupied, and contain all of the features (PCEs

1, 2, and 3) essential to the conservation of the species.

Additionally, habitat in Subunits 1A and 1B supports the largest

numbers of Astragalus magdalenae var. peirsonii in the Mammoth Wash

Management Area, with approximately 8,002 plants observed in Subunit 1A

and 24,623 plants observed in Subunit 1B (based on our calculations

using BLM's 2005 raw survey data). Habitat within these subunits

contains a higher density of standing plants and is likely to support a

large seed bank based on our analysis of BLM's 2004 survey data in

addition to containing the PCEs required by the species.

The Mammoth Wash Management Area is used for camping, hunting,

rights of way, motion picture/television filming, and OHV recreation

(BLM 2003, p. 67). The majority of Subunit 1B is within an interim

closure area, temporarily closed to OHV activity. Because the area

outside of the interim closure area is remote and difficult to access,

OHV recreationists give it relatively light visitation on holiday

weekends and minimal visitation during the week (BLM 2003, p. 67). This

management area had the lowest average annual visitation (approximately

80 vehicles) of all management areas open for OHV use during the 2003-

2004, 2004-2005, and 2005-2006 seasons (BLM 2006).

The PCEs found in Subunit 1A may require special management

considerations or protection such as use restrictions and/or additional

enforcement to minimize impacts associated with OHV use and associated

recreational activity. The majority of the habitat in Subunit 1B is

currently being managed by the BLM to minimize impacts associated with

OHV use through an interim closure of the area. However, regardless of

the future status of this interim closure area, the PCEs found in this

subunit may require special management considerations or protection,

such as OHV-use restrictions and/or additional enforcement in the

future to minimize impacts associated with OHV recreation (see

``Special Management Considerations or Protection'' section).

Subunits 1C (741 ac (300 ha)) and 1D (2,103 ac (851 ha))

The majority of land in Subunit 1C and all of the land in Subunit

1D is owned by the BLM (Table 2). Both subunits were occupied at the

time of listing, are currently occupied, and contain all of the

features (PCEs 1, 2, and 3) essential to the conservation of the

species. Additionally, habitat in Subunits 1C and 1D retains the most

natural and pristine features of the Algodones Dunes ecosystem, and

includes the best remaining example of a dune system undisturbed by

intensive OHV recreation in the ISDRA. These areas also support the

largest numbers of Astragalus magdalenae var. peirsonii in the North

Algodones Dunes Wilderness Management Area with approximately 15,519

plants observed in Subunit 1C and 42,673 plants observed in Subunit 1D

(based on our calculations using BLM's 2005 raw survey data. Habitat

within these subunits contains a higher density of standing plants and

is likely to support a large seed bank based on our analysis of BLM's

2004 survey data in addition to containing the PCEs required by the

species.

The North Algodones Dunes Wilderness Management Area is a 32,000-ac

(12,955 ha) area that was designated as a wilderness area in 1994 to

protect a number of rare and endemic plant and animal species,

including Astragalus magdalenae var. peirsonii. Activities in this area

include photographic activities, sightseeing, walking, hiking,

backpacking, camping, nature study, horseback riding, hunting, rights-

of-way, and wildlife viewing (BLM 2003, p. 71). No recreational use of

mechanized vehicles of any kind (OHVs, motorcycles, bicycles, hang

gliders, motorized equipment, or motorboats) is allowed in the

wilderness area; management takes the form of ``minimal and subtle on-

site controls and restrictions'' (Willoughby 2003). However, people

occasionally trespass with motorized vehicles, and the BLM acknowledges

that the amount of motorized trespasses in this area should be reduced

(BLM 2003, p. 71).

The PCEs found in both subunits may require special management

considerations or protection, such as additional enforcement to

minimize impacts associated with unauthorized trespass by motorized

vehicles (see ``Special Management Considerations or Protection''

section).

Unit 2--Gecko/Glamis (4,003 ac (1,620 ha))

Unit 2 consists of 4,003 ac (1,620 ha) of land further divided into

2 subunits (2A and 2B) entirely under BLM ownership (Table 2). This

unit includes lands in the BLM's Gecko and Glamis Management Areas,

with the majority being in the Gecko Management Area.

Subunits 2A (2,716 ac (1,099 ha)) and 2B (1,287 ac (521 ha))

Both subunits were occupied at the time of listing, are currently

occupied, and contain all of the features (PCEs 1, 2, and 3) essential

to the conservation of the species. Additionally, habitat in Subunits

2A and 2B supports the largest numbers of Astragalus magdalenae var.

peirsonii in the Gecko/Glamis Management Areas with approximately

37,234 plants observed in Subunit 2A and 20,865 plants observed in

Subunit 2B (based on our calculations using BLM's 2005 raw survey

data). Habitat within these subunits contains a higher density of

standing plants and is likely to support a large seed bank based on our

analysis of BLM's 2004 survey data in addition to containing the PCEs

required by the species.

Subunits 2A and 2B are almost entirely within BLM's Gecko

Management Area, the most developed of the eight management areas

within the ISDRA. It contains campgrounds, toilets, trash stations,

camping pads, overlooks, commercial vending, and a ranger station (BLM

2003, pp. 75-76). The Gecko Management Area had the highest average

annual visitation (approximately 144,421 vehicles) of the management

areas open for OHV use during the 2003-2004, 2004-2005, and 2005-2006

seasons (BLM 2006). However, the majority of Subunit 2B is within an

interim closure area, temporarily closed to OHV activity.

The PCEs found in Subunit 2A may require special management

considerations or protection, such as use restrictions and/or

additional enforcement to minimize impacts associated with intensive

OHV activity. The majority of the habitat in Subunit 2B is currently

being managed by the BLM to minimize impacts associated with OHV-use

through an interim closure of the area. However, regardless of the

future status of this interim closure area, the PCEs found in this

subunit may require special management considerations or protection

such as OHV-use restrictions and/or additional enforcement in the

future to minimize impacts associated with OHV recreation (see

``Special Management Considerations or Protection'' section).

Unit 3--Adaptive Management Area (AMA)/Ogilby (7,212 ac (2,919 ha))

Unit 3 consists of (7,212 ac (2,919 ha)) of land further divided

into 3 subunits (3A, 3B, 3C) entirely under BLM ownership (Table 2).

This unit includes lands in the BLM's AMA and Ogilby Management Area.

Subunits 3A (4,487 ac (1,816 ha)), 3B (1,176 ac (476 ha)), and 3C

(1,549 ac (627 ha))

All three subunits were occupied at the time of listing, are

currently occupied, and contain all of the features (PCEs 1, 2, and 3)

essential to the conservation of the species. Additionally, habitat in

Subunits 3A, 3B, and 3C represents the largest, widest, and highest

sand dune fields within the Algodones Dunes and supports the largest

numbers of Astragalus magdalenae var. peirsonii dunes-wide, with

approximately 200,021 plants observed in Subunit 3A; 178,837 plants

observed in Subunit 3B; and 125,526 plants observed in Subunit 3C

(based on our calculations using BLM's 2005 raw survey data). Habitat

within these subunits contains a higher density of standing plants and

is likely to support a large seed bank based on our analysis of BLM's

2004 survey data in addition to containing the PCEs required by the

species.

All of Subunit 3A and about half of Subunit 3B are in the BLM's

AMA. The other half of Subunit 3B and all of Subunit 3C are in the

Ogilby Management Area. The AMA is intended primarily for OHV

recreation, although there is also rights-of-way use (BLM 2003, p. 84).

However, the entire AMA, including all of Subunit 3A and most of

Subunit 3B, is within an interim closure area, temporarily closed to

OHV activity. The Ogilby Management Area is used for camping, OHV

recreation, and rights-of-way (BLM 2003, p. 90). A portion of the

Ogilby Management Area, including a small portion of Subunit 3C, is

within an interim closure area, temporarily closed to OHV activity.

Areas of the Ogilby Management Area open to OHV use had average annual

visitation of approximately 12,951 vehicles during the 2003-2004, 2004-

2005, and 2005-2006 seasons (BLM 2006).

The PCEs found in Subunit 3C not within the interim closure area

may require special management considerations or protection such as use

restrictions and/or additional enforcement to minimize impacts

associated with OHV recreation. Habitat in Subunits 3A and 3B, and a

small portion of Subunit 3C, are currently being managed by the BLM to

minimize impacts associated with OHV use through an interim closure of

the area. However, regardless of the future status of this interim

closure area, the PCEs found in these subunits may require special

management considerations or protection such as OHV-use restrictions

and/or additional enforcement in the future to minimize impacts

associated with OHV recreation (see ``Special Management Considerations

or Protection'' section).

Unit 4--Buttercup (218 ac (88 ha))

Unit 4 consists of 218 ac (88 ha) of land entirely under BLM

ownership (Table 2). This unit includes lands in the BLM's Buttercup

Management Area. This unit was occupied at the time of listing, is

currently occupied, and contains all of the features (PCEs 1, 2, and 3)

essential to the conservation of the species. Additionally, habitat in

Unit 4 supports the largest number of Astragalus magdalenae var.

peirsonii in the Buttercup Management Area with approximately 30,011

plants observed (based on our calculations using BLM's 2005 raw survey

data). Habitat within these subunits contains a higher density of

standing plants and is likely to support a large seed bank based on our

analysis of BLM's 2004 survey data in addition to containing the PCEs

required by the species.

This area is used for camping, OHV recreation, sightseeing,

commercial vending, education, filming and rights of way (BLM 2003, p.

97). The Buttercup Management Area had the second highest average

annual visitation (approximately 78,629 vehicles) of the management

areas open for OHV use during the 2003-2004, 2004-2005, and 2005-2006

seasons (BLM 2006). Due to its proximity to Mexico, there are also many

United States--Mexico international border issues (e.g. illegal border

crossings and smuggling of goods and contraband) in this management

area requiring frequent patrol by the U.S. Border Patrol (BLM 2003, p.

97). The PCEs found in Unit 4 may require special management

considerations or protection such as use restrictions and/or additional

enforcement to minimize impacts associated with intensive OHV activity

(see ``Special Management Considerations or Protection'' section).

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Thanks for sorting that out, it's "Greek to me". While it's not quite as good as we'd like, "cautiously optimistic" is a good phrase :thumbup:

Thanks for letting us know

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As was said in other threads looks like it's being worked on.

Special Management Considerations is not good though, although it was expected.

I imagine the ASA will have a lengthy report to submit with good data but what, if anything, can the average Joe submit to help?

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Vicki..thanks for the research, and sharing this with us. This is hopefully good news, as anything in a positive manner is a good start in my opinion. Mike, I expect that some sort of suggestions will be forthcoming with talking points for those who wish to make comments. It'll be a good warm up for the forthcoming work we have ahead of us with revising the RAMP and all..

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What's kinda sad is that the FWS has "observed" over 1/2 MILLIION standing plants and they STILL consider this thing endangered?

Gimme a freakin' break.

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Here's some more info from fws:

Department of the Interior

U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service

Carlsbad Fish and Wildlife Office

6010 Hidden Valley Road

Carlsbad, California 92011

Phone: 760/431-9440

Fax: 760/431-9618

http://www.fws.gov/carlsbad

For Release: July 27, 2007

Contact: Jane Hendron, Carlsbad, CA - 760/431-9440 ext. 205

REVISED CRITICAL HABITAT PROPOSED FOR

PEIRSON’S MILK-VETCH

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (Service) today published a proposed

rule to revise critical habitat for the federally threatened Peirson’s

milk-vetch plant. The new proposal includes approximately 16,108 acres

within the Algodones Dunes in Imperial County, California, almost all of

which is managed by the Bureau of Land Management as part of the Imperial

Sand Dunes Recreation Area (ISDRA).

Areas included in the revised critical habitat proposal support at least

100 plants per hectare and dune bowls that are no more than 100 meters from

each core plant population.

The proposed critical habitat includes portions of the Buttercup, Gecko,

Glamis, Mammoth Wash, and Ogilby Management Areas within the ISDRA, as well

as parts of the Adaptive Management Area and the North Algodones

Wilderness.

A new draft economic analysis of the revised proposal estimates potential

future impacts associated with reductions in off-highway use in the ISDRA,

administrative costs to government agencies and other costs could range

from $1.02 million to $92.8 million over the next 20 years (using

undiscounted dollars).

Public hearings on the proposed rule and draft economic analysis will take

place on August 23, 2007, from 1-3 p.m. and 6-8 p.m. at the Service’s

Carlsbad Fish and Wildlife Office.

A copy of the proposed rule, draft economic analysis and other information

about Peirson’s milk-vetch is available on the Internet at

http://www.fws.gov/Carlsbad. Comments may be submitted in writing to the

Field Supervisor, Carlsbad Fish and Wildlife Office, 6010 Hidden Valley

Road, Carlsbad, CA 92011, or by electronic mail to fw8cfwocomments@fws.gov.

Comments on the proposed rule will be accepted until September 25, 2007.

Peirson’s milk-vetch is a perennial member of the legume family. It has a

long tap root that can penetrate deep into the sand to reach moisture and

functions as an anchor for the plant in shifting sands. The plant has

delicate pale purple flowers and produces large fruits each containing 11

to 16 flattened black seeds. Plants may flower in their first year and

produce between one and five fruits, while older plants produce

significantly more fruits.

This new proposed critical habitat designation stems from a lawsuit filed

against the Service by the Center for Biological Diversity, Sierra Club,

Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility, and Desert Survivors

challenging the economic analysis that was prepared for the original 2004

critical habitat designation.

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 97-million-acre National Wildlife Refuge

System, which encompasses 547 national wildlife refuges, thousands of small

wetlands and other special management areas. It also operates 69 national

fish hatcheries, 63 fishery resource offices and 81 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 and Native American Tribal governments

with their conservation efforts. It also oversees the Federal Assistance

program, which distributes hundreds of millions of dollars in excise taxes

on fishing and hunting equipment to State fish and wildlife agencies.

For more information about the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, visit our

home page at www.fws.gov

and here's an faq in pdf format:

fws_faq.pdf

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Well, well, well... the CBD et.al. has now weighed in on their feelings on the subject.

I wonder how long it will take for them to file suit against the decision?

From the Center's web site today...

_______________________

For Immediate Release, July 27, 2007

Contact: Ileene Anderson, Wildlife Biologist, Center for Biological Diversity, (323) 654-5943

Lisa Belenky, Staff Attorney, Center for Biological Diversity, (415) 436-9682 x 307

Karen Schambach, PEER, (530) 333-1106

Peirson’s Milk-Vetch Squashed by Feds Again:

Feds Propose to Further Shrink Habitat for Rare Plant

LOS ANGELES– Today the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service issued a new proposal to protect critical habitat for the federally and state-protected Peirson’s milk-vetch, as mandated by federal court. The new proposal identifies 16,108 acres of land in the Algodones Dunes as habitat necessary for the survival and recovery of the rare plant, representing a 25-percent reduction from the current critical habitat designation. It further restricts the areas that would be enforced for conservation of the plant, which is found nowhere else in the United States save on a portion of southern California’s Algodones Dunes.

“This reduction of protected habitat will make it difficult, if not impossible, for the Peirson’s milk-vetch to survive and recover,” says Ileene Anderson, a biologist with the Center for Biological Diversity. “The Bush administration’s M.O. of ignoring science apparently still rules.”

Just four years ago, the Fish and Wildlife Service designated 52,780 acres of critical habitat for the Peirson’s milk-vetch. A year later that proposal was slashed by more than 60 percent to 21, 836 acres. Last year, a federal court judge found that the Service had ignored the recovery goal and the regulatory benefit to the species that critical habitat provides, and required the agency to reinstate the earlier designation while this new critical habitat designation was formulated.

"The Interior Department's decision to continue cut the amount of protected habitat defies the recommendations of local biologists with the best knowledge of what the milk-vetch needs to survive millions of menacing knobby tires," said Karen Schambach of PEER. "Clearly, the Bush administration is continuing its shoddy practice of allowing political considerations to trump science.”

“This designation wholly fails to address the habitat needed by the milk-vetch for the species to recover,” said Lisa Belenky, staff attorney for the Center for Biological Diversity. “The court required the Service to consider the goals of the Endangered Species Act — to protect and recover imperiled species — but the Service doesn’t appear to have been listening.”

Located in the Sonoran desert of southeastern California’s Imperial County, the scenic and remote Algodones Dunes are the largest dune ecosystem in the United States. The dunes harbor at least 160 different animal and plant species, many of which are found nowhere else in the world. The dunes are heavily impacted by as many as 240,000 off-roaders on some weekends, and intensive use that destroys vegetation and wildlife habitat, pollutes the air, and creates criminal problems that stress law enforcement.

###

Center for Biological Diversity • Sierra Club

Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility • Desert Survivors

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Duck, you must have a cast iron stomach...surfin the cbd site is a tough one for sure. Thanks for sharing your find. Still doing research on this issue, but anything that the eco's view as bad, appears to me to be a good thing...

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Can somebody translate this for us mere mortals?

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Can somebody translate this for us mere mortals?

Let me try:

No real reason to have closures per the gov. Keeping some anyway to try and appease the tree huggers, tree huggers still not happy, tree huggers will sue again, dunes still not opened.

But thanks for playing...

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Just click on the PDF files Beachhead provided above to see the maps. It sure helped me understand what is going on better.

From my take on the subject, critical habitat is essentially the area that will receive the most management for the species. For example, how and when we might access these areas.

Expanded critical habitat = more restrictive management of the entire ISDRA.

Reduced critical habitat = less restrictive mangement.

Edited by APHANTOMDUCK

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It's a convoluted mess for sure. Basically, what's happening is the fish and wildlife service is proposing a reduction in the size of the "Critical Habitat" (CH) for the PMV. They have to list it in the federal register, and take public comment, and then consider that comment before they make a "final rule" on that designation. A lot of the mumbo jumbo is describing where this habitat is located. Anyone who is interested in this issue can make comments until the deadline listed in the federal register. Unless the fws receives comments or information during the public comment period that sheds new light on why their decision would be wrong, I think they are likely to make this ruling final. Once that happens, I'd bet the eco's will issue a "60 day notice" to sue the government, and then the whole thing would get tied back up in court, which means more and more delays.

A key thing to remember is that CH does not necessarily mean closure of the land. And on the other side of the coin, reducing CH as proposed in this case, does not mean dunes will be opened. I'm sure there is a more "technical" definition, but the way I understand it, CH is the minimal amount of land an endangered/threatened species (in this case, the pmv), needs to insure it does not become extinct. The designation must consider the area needed to "recover" from whatever point it was at when it was listed, and then be self sustaining into the future, so it can be more than the areas that the species currently occupy (this is the part that has the eco's panties in a wad...they want more land to allow the pmv to recover).

Now when the land manager, (for us the blm) decides what use of the land is allowed, they must consider any CH for any listed species, and how that use would impact that species. That is part of what the RAMP is supposed to do. So, if we have less CH, then there is a valid argument that the RAMP should allow unfettered OHV access in the land not designated as CH, so from our perspective, this could be a good thing. The other thing that should be considered is that we have scientific evidence to prove is that OHV activity does not drive the number of pmv present at any time, it's the amount of rainfall and when it occurs during the year. OHV damage is statistically insignificant (no, don't go out and start running over plants cause I said it's not a big deal!!), BUT it's much easier for the land manager to control than the weather, so it will be a factor in any use decision they make when the new RAMP. There is a lot more to the whole enchilada than this, but that's why things don't happen overnight with this stuff.

The bottom line is that any reduction in CH is a good thing. It doesn't open up any dunes today, but it's a step in the right direction.

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Well said (written) Bob :yay:

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If the PMV cant survive in the thousands of unocupied/ offlimit acres north of Hi78 then maybe it just wasnt meant to be !!!!!.

Thanks for the info BeachHead !!!.

.

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Here's some more on this issue. This link is to the economic analysis that was used to determine the new critical habitat designation. If you have some time, it would be interesting to see what you think of it...

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I never realized how screwed we duner's are untill I read the above ..... And I never realized how under staffed and out manned we duners are ( legally) .... It is apparent to me that no matter what we do we will be out numbered and underfunded for the long haul and dont stand a chance as long as we duners have only ONE lawyer in our defense....

...

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