USFW Service Re-opens Review Of Draft Economic Analysis For The Proposed Critical Habitat Designation For 2 Freshwater Mussels

Tuesday, August 27, 2013

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service is re-opening the public comment period on the draft environmental assessment for the proposed designation of critical habitat for the Neosho Mucket and Rabbitsfoot mussels.  The assessment discusses the estimated costs and economic impacts of the proposed designation.

Last year, the Service proposed to list the Neosho mucket as endangered, and the rabbitsfoot as threatened under the Endangered Species Act (ESA). The Service also proposed to designate critical habitat for these two mussels in 43 critical habitat units encompassing 2,138 river miles of stream channels in Alabama, Arkansas, Illinois, Indiana, Kansas, Kentucky, Mississippi, Missouri, Oklahoma, Ohio, Pennsylvania, and Tennessee. 

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.

The Service conducted a draft economic analysis of these mussels’ proposed critical habitat designation, as required under the ESA.  It sought public comment on both these reports between May 9, 2013, and June 10, 2013.  The Service is now re-opening the time available for public comment for an additional 60 days, until Oct. 28.

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 annually $290,000 to 390,000 over the next 20 years. 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.

The Service completed the draft environmental assessment of the proposed critical habitat designation, in accordance with 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.  

Seventy-two miles, or four percent of these mussels’ 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 draft economic analysis and draft environmental assessment is available at www.regulations.gov, Docket # FWS–R4–ES–2013–0007.  The public also may mail comments and materials concerning the proposed critical habitat designation, draft economic analysis, and draft environmental assessment to Public Comments Processing, Attn: FWS–R4–ES–2013–0007; 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 Oct. 28, 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.  Connect with us on Facebook at www.facebook.com/usfwssoutheast, follow our tweets at www.twitter.com/usfwssoutheast, watch our YouTube Channel at http://www.youtube.com/usfws, and download photos from our Flickr page at http://www.flickr.com/photos/usfwssoutheast.


8th Annual Maury County Youth Small Game And Predator Hunt Scheduled For Feb. 11

The Tennessee Wildlife Resources Agency will be one of the sponsors for the eighth annual Maury County Youth Small Game and Predator Hunt to be held Feb. 11. The free event is for youth from ages 9-15 who must have a TWRA Hunter Education certification by the hunt date and have all the appropriate licenses permits. Hunters must also provide their own firearm and ammunition.   ... (click for more)

7th Annual Daniel Greer Memorial Youth Waterfowl Hunt Set For Feb. 11 In Cheatham County

The Tennessee Wildlife Resources Agency is among the partners to host the Seventh Annual Daniel Greer Memorial Youth Waterfowl Hunt. The event will be held Saturday, Feb. 11 at Cheatham Lake Wildlife Management Area. The event is held in honor of U.S. Marine Corporal Daniel Greer who lost his life in August 2010 while serving in southern Afghanistan. He was an Ashland City firefighter ... (click for more)

Chattanooga Police To Add 14 Officers After Violent Weekend; New System To Allow Local Testing Of Shell Casings

In the wake of a weekend in which five people were shot with two dying, the Chattanooga Police Department is adding 14 more officers, Mayor Andy Berke and Chief Fred Fletcher said Monday. The department is also utilizing a new system that will allow local testing of shell casings and avoid a long wait time after sending them off to Nashville. Chief Fletcher also said there ... (click for more)

Cleveland Mother And Father Indicted After 2-Month Old Tests Positive For Meth; Has Multiple Injuries

The father and mother of a two-month-old in Cleveland have been indicted for child abuse after the baby tested positive for meth and had multiple injuries. Cleveland Police said on Jan. 4 the Department of Children Services and the Cleveland Police Department’s Special Investigations Unit began a joint investigation on an aggravated child neglect/abuse case.  DCS and ... (click for more)

Proud Of Chattanooga And The Women's March - And Response (2)

I was very happy to participate in the Women’s March on Chattanooga yesterday afternoon. The diversity and the sheer numbers of women, men and children were incredible. One estimate was at least 3,000. Standing together with all of these like-minded souls was overwhelming and humbling.  I have rarely been so happy and so proud of my town.  One question is, why is ... (click for more)

Roy Exum: Our Puzzling Women

After Rhonda Thurman left the “Enlightment” meeting of the Hamilton Country School Board Saturday afternoon, she must have been catching up on the news when she posted this message on her Facebook page: “I am really trying to understand. I am a woman and I cannot think of one "RIGHT" I do not have. Can someone enlighten me?” Not one person enlightened Rhonda because nobody could ... (click for more)