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Proposed Rule

Endangered and Threatened Wildlife and Plants; Extension of Comment Periods on Proposed Critical Habitat for the Spectacled Eider and Steller's Eider

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AGENCY:

Fish and Wildlife Service, Interior.

ACTION:

Proposed rule; notice of extension of comment period.

SUMMARY:

We, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (Service), provide notice that we are extending the comment periods on the proposed rules designating critical habitat for the spectacled eider (Somateria fischeri) and the Alaska-breeding population of the Steller's eider (Polysticta stelleri). We are extending these comment periods to allow the public the opportunity to comment simultaneously on the proposed rules and the associated economic analyses, which we anticipate will be available for public review in August 2000. All interested parties are invited to submit comments on these proposed rules.

DATES:

The comment periods for the proposed rules concerning spectacled eiders and Steller's eiders, which previously closed on June 30, 2000, now close on August 31, 2000.

ADDRESSES:

Submit written data or comments on the spectacled eider to the Field Supervisor, Ecological Services Field Office, Anchorage, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, 605 W. 4th Ave. Rm G-62, Anchorage, AK 99501; fax: 907/271-2786. Submit written data or comments on the Steller's eider to Ted Swem, Northern Alaska Ecological Services, 101 12th Ave., Rm 110, Fairbanks, AK 99701.

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FOR FURTHER INFORMATION CONTACT:

For the proposed rule concerning spectacled eiders, contact Ann G. Rappoport, Field Supervisor, Ecological Services Field Office, Anchorage (see ADDRESSES above), phone: 907/271-2787 or toll-free 800/272-4174; fax: 907/271-2786. For the proposed rule concerning Steller's eiders, contact Ted Swem, Endangered Species Branch, at Northern Alaska Ecological Services (see ADDRESSES above), phone: 907/456-0441; fax: 907/456-0208.

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SUPPLEMENTARY INFORMATION:

Background

The spectacled eider is a large seaduck found in marine waters and Start Printed Page 41405coastal areas from the Nushagak Peninsula of southwestern Alaska north to Barrow and east nearly to the Canadian Border. The species is threatened by habitat degradation, lead poisoning, increased predation rates, and hunting and other human disturbance. The Steller's eider is a seaduck found in coastal and marine waters from the eastern Aleutian Islands around the western and northern coasts of Alaska to the Canada border. The Alaska-breeding population of this species is thought to have decreased significantly, but the causes of the suspected decline are unknown. On February 8, 2000, the Service published a proposed rule (65 FR 6114) to designate critical habitat for the spectacled eider, and on March 13, 2000, the Service published a proposed rule (65 FR 13262) to designate critical habitat for the Alaska-breeding population of the Steller's eider.

The comment period for the proposed rule designating critical habitat for spectacled eiders originally closed on May 8, 2000. The comment period for the proposed rule designating critical habitat for Steller's eiders originally closed on May 12, 2000. We subsequently extended the comment periods for both species to June 30, 2000, in response to concerns expressed by several parties that the original comment periods did not allow adequate time for review and comment by affected individuals and communities. Additionally, we anticipated that the comment periods for the economic analyses associated with the proposed critical habitat designations would be open during June 2000, and we wished to solicit comments on the proposed rules and their respective economic analyses simultaneously. The development of the economic analyses for the proposed critical habitat designations was unexpectedly delayed, and we now anticipate that the economic analyses will be available for public review and comment during August 2000. Accordingly, to ensure simultaneous comment on proposed critical habitat and the associated economic analyses, the Service is extending the comment periods for both proposed rules until August 31, 2000. Written comments may be submitted to the appropriate Service office as specified in the ADDRESSES section.

Our practice is to make comments, including names and home addresses of respondents, available for public review during regular business hours. Individual respondents may request that we withhold their home address from the rulemaking record, which we will honor to the extent allowable by law. In certain circumstances, we would withhold from the rulemaking record a respondent's identity, as allowable by law. If you wish for us to withhold your name and/or address, you must state this request prominently at the beginning of your comment. However, we will not consider anonymous comments. We will make all submissions from organizations or businesses, and from individuals identifying themselves as representatives or officials of organizations or businesses, available for public inspection in their entirety.

The deadline for requesting public hearings on the proposed rule regarding critical habitat for the spectacled eider was March 24, 2000. The deadline for requesting public hearings for the proposed rule regarding critical habitat for Steller's eider was April 27, 2000. We have not extended these deadlines. In order to be considered valid, requests for public hearings must have been submitted in writing and received at the appropriate office by the relevant deadline.

Author: The primary author of this notice is Susan Detwiler, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, Division of Endangered Species, 1011 E. Tudor Rd., Anchorage, AK 99503.

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Authority: The authority for this action is the Endangered Species Act of 1973 (16 U.S.C. 1531 et seq.).

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Dated: June 27, 2000.

Gary Edwards,

Acting Regional Director, Region 7, Fish and Wildlife Service.

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[FR Doc. 00-16923 Filed 7-3-00; 8:45 am]

BILLING CODE 4310-55-U