U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service to Hold Public Hearing on Estimates of Economic Impact of Critical Habitat for the Yellowcheek Darter.
The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (Service) announces a public hearing to share information and accept comments about estimates of economic impacts related to a proposal to designate critical habitat for the endangered yellowcheek darter.
The Service is re-opening the comment period for 30 days through June 25, 2012, in order to allow comments on the proposed designation and the draft economic analysis. At the time of listing, the Service determined that critical habitat should be identified. The yellowcheek darter was listed as endangered on August 9, 2011.
The public hearing will be held at the Clinton High School Auditorium, 115 Joe Bowling Drive, in Clinton, Arkansas on June 7, 2012, from 7:00 p.m. to 9:00 p.m. Due to security screening, we recommend that the public arrive early to accommodate the screening process. Biologists will give a brief presentation discussing the proposal to designate critical habitat and the estimates of economic impacts related to the proposal released in October, 2011. After the presentation, the Service will accept comments on the record from the public.
The Service is committed to providing access to this hearing for all participants. Persons needing reasonable accommodations in order to attend and participate in this meeting should contact Jim Boggs at 501-513-4475, or email@example.com, as soon as possible. In order to allow sufficient time to process requests, please call or e-mail no later than close of business on June 4, 2012.
The critical habitat designation which protects habitat for the yellowcheek darter will not stop the National Championship Chuckwagon Races, which are held along the Upper Little Red River in late summer. Protections for the fish have been in place since the listing in August of 2011. The economic analysis predicts little, if any, impacts from the designation to these activities.
The Service is encouraging public comments. The public is welcome to provide oral or written comments during the hearing or submit comments at http://www.regulations.gov, Docket # FWS-R4-ES-2011-0074, until June 25, 2012.
Please check the Federal Register website at: http://www.regulations.gov, Docket # FWS-R4-ES-2011-0074, for the proposed rule, complete notice, draft economic analysis, and instructions on how to comment. A copy of the economic analysis also can be obtained by contacting Stephanie Chance, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, 446 Neal Street, Cookeville, Tennessee 38501; phone 931/528-6481, extension 211.
Comments previously submitted during the first comment period do not need to be resubmitted. A final decision on the designation of critical habitat for the yellowcheek darter will consider all comments and information received by the close of the comment period for the draft economic analysis.
The proposed critical habitat for the yellowcheek darter is located in Cleburne, Searcy, Stone, and Van Buren counties, Arkansas. Four critical habitat units are proposed and include approximately 102 river miles.
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 will cost around $134,000 over 20 years, or about $11,800 annually for the yellowcheek darter. 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.
In 2007, the Service issued a programmatic Safe Harbor Agreement (SHA) and a Candidate Conservation Agreement with Assurances (CCAA) covering over 500,000 acres within the Upper Little Red River watershed, with the Arkansas Game and Fish Commission, the Natural Resources Conservation Service, and The Nature Conservancy. The SHA/CCAA covers the speckled pocketbook mussel and the yellowcheek darter. The Service and its partners have been working with local landowners to include them in this agreement. An estimated 14,000 to 15,000 acres have been enrolled in this agreement to date. These agreements ensure good conservation work and offer landowners long-term flexibility, potential technical and financial support, assurances for future management expectations that won't change regardless of the species status, and stability with respect to the recovery of these species.
Critical habitat is a term defined in the Endangered Species Act (ESA). It refers to specific geographic areas containing features essential to the conservation of a threatened or endangered species and which may require special management considerations or protection. Designation of critical habitat does not affect land ownership, establish a refuge or preserve, and has no impact on private landowners taking actions on their land that do not require federal funding or permits. 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.