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Proposed Rule

Endangered and Threatened Wildlife and Plants; Reopening of Public Comment Period and Notice of Availability of Draft Economic Analysis for Proposed Critical Habitat Determination for the Spruce-Fir Moss Spider

Document Details

Information about this document as published in the Federal Register.

Published Document

This document has been published in the Federal Register. Use the PDF linked in the document sidebar for the official electronic format.

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AGENCY:

Fish and Wildlife Service, Interior.

ACTION:

Proposed rule; notice of reopening of public comment period and availability of draft economic analysis.

SUMMARY:

We, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, announce the availability of the draft economic analysis for the proposed designation of critical habitat for the spruce-fir moss spider (Microhexura montivaga). We also provide notice that the public comment period for the proposal is reopened to allow all interested parties to submit written comments on the proposal and the draft economic analysis. Comments previously submitted during the comment period need not be resubmitted as they will be incorporated into the public record and Start Printed Page 9807will be fully considered in the final determination on the proposal.

DATES:

The original comment period closed on December 5, 2000. The comment period is hereby reopened until April 13, 2001. We must receive comments from all interested parties by the closing date. Any comments that we receive after the closing date will not be considered in the final decision on this proposal.

ADDRESSES:

Copies of the draft economic analysis are available on the Internet at http://southeast.fws.gov/​hotissues/​hot_​index.html or by writing to or calling the State Supervisor, Asheville Field Office, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, 160 Zillicoa Street, Asheville, North Carolina 28801; telephone 828/258-3939.

If you wish to comment, you may submit your comments by any one of several methods:

1. You may submit written comments and information to the State Supervisor, Asheville Field Office, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, 160 Zillicoa Street, Asheville, North Carolina 28801.

2. You may hand-deliver written comments to our Asheville Field Office, at the above address or fax your comments to 828/258-5330.

3. You may send comments by electronic mail (e-mail) to john_fridell@fws.gov. For directions on how to submit electronic filing of comments, see the “Public Comments Solicited” section.

Comments and materials received, as well as supporting documentation used in preparation of this proposed rule, will be available for public inspection, by appointment, during normal business hours at the above address.

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FOR FURTHER INFORMATION CONTACT:

John A. Fridell, Fish and Wildlife Biologist (see ADDRESSES section).

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SUPPLEMENTARY INFORMATION:

Background

The spruce-fir moss spider is the smallest of the mygalomorph spiders, with adults measuring only 2.5 to 3.8 millimeters (0.10 to 0.15 inch) in length (Coyle 1981, Service 1995). The species' coloration ranges from light brown to a darker reddish brown, and there are no markings on the abdomen (Harp 1992). Microhexura montivaga is known from only the highest mountain peaks (at and above 1,646 m (5,400 ft) in elevation) in the Southern Appalachian Mountains of North Carolina and Tennessee.

Recent and ongoing surveys funded by the National Park Service, U.S. Forest Service, and us indicate that reproducing populations of the spruce-fir moss spider still survive on Grandfather Mountain in North Carolina (Harp 1992; pers. observation 1995; Jane Thompson, The Nature Conservancy, pers. comm. 1997); Mount LeConte in Tennessee (Coyle 1997); and Mount Buckley (Coyle, pers. comm. 2000) and Roan Mountain in North Carolina and Tennessee (Coyle 1999). The Mount Mitchell population is believed to be extirpated (Harp 1992), and both the Mount Collins and Clingmans Dome populations, if still present, are extremely small, with only one spruce-fir moss spider having been found at each of these two sites in recent years (Harp 1991, 1992).

The microhabitat of the spruce-fir moss spider appears to be virtually restricted to certain areas of rock outcrops and boulders in Fraser fir and/or fir-dominated spruce-fir forests. The primary threat to, and reason for, the recent decline of the spruce-fir moss spider at all of the sites from which it has been recorded appears to be associated with the loss of suitable moss habitat, due primarily to the loss of mature Fraser firs (Coyle, in litt., 1991, 1999; Harp 1991, 1992; Service 1998).

On February 6, 1995, we listed the spruce-fir moss spider as endangered (60 FR 6968) under the Endangered Species Act of 1973, as amended (Act). The primary threat to the species was identified as deterioration of the spider's high-elevation forest habitat due primarily to exotic insects and possibly to past land use history, air pollution, and other factors not yet fully understood. On October 6, 2000, we published in the Federal Register a proposal to designate critical habitat for this species (65 FR 59798). The proposal includes: (1) Areas at and above 1,646 meters (m) (5,400 feet (ft)) in elevation in the Great Smoky Mountains National Park (GSMNP) on and/or in the vicinity of Mount LeConte in Sevier County, Tennessee, and Mount Collins, Clingmans Dome, and Mount Buckley in Swain County, North Carolina, and Sevier County, Tennessee; (2) areas at and above 1,646 m (5,400 ft) in elevation at Grandfather Mountain in Avery, Caldwell, and Watauga Counties, North Carolina; and (3) portions at and above 1,646 m (5,400 ft) in elevation at Roan Mountain, Avery and Mitchell Counties, North Carolina, and Carter County, Tennessee. All of the areas on or in the vicinity of Mount LeConte, Mount Collins, Clingmans Dome, and Mount Buckley that are proposed for critical habitat designation are within the boundaries of the GSMNP; all of the areas of Roan Mountain that are proposed for critical habitat designation are within the boundaries of the Pisgah National Forest in North Carolina and the Cherokee National Forest in Tennessee; and the areas of Grandfather Mountain that are proposed for critical habitat designation are privately owned.

Section 4(b)(2) of the Act requires that we designate or revise critical habitat based upon the best scientific and commercial data available and after taking into consideration the economic impact, and any other relevant impact, of specifying any particular area as critical habitat. We may exclude an area from critical habitat if we determine that the benefits of excluding the area outweigh the benefits of including the area as critical habitat, provided such exclusion will not result in the extinction of the species. Consequently, we have prepared a draft economic analysis concerning the proposed critical habitat designation, which is available for review and comment at the above Internet and mailing addresses.

Public Comments Solicited

We solicit comments on the draft economic analysis described in this notice, as well as any other aspect of the proposed designation of critical habitat for the spruce-fir moss spider. Our final determination on the proposed critical habitat will take into consideration comments and any additional information received by the date specified above. All previous comments and information submitted during the comment period need not be resubmitted. Written comments may be submitted to the State Supervisor (see ADDRESSES section).

Please submit electronic comments as an ASCII file format and avoid the use of special characters and encryption. Please also include “Attn: [RIN number]” and your name and return address in your e-mail message. If you do not receive a confirmation from the system that we have received your e-mail message, contact us directly by calling our Asheville Field Office (see ADDRESSES section).

Our practice is to make all 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 some 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 prominently at the beginning of your comments. However, we will not consider anonymous comments. We will make all submissions from organizations or businesses, and from Start Printed Page 9808individuals identifying themselves as representatives or officials of organizations or businesses, available for public inspection in their entirety.

References Cited

A complete list of all references cited in this document is available upon request from the Asheville Field Office (see ADDRESSES section).

Author

The primary author of this document is John A. Fridell (see ADDRESSES section).

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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: January 18, 2001.

H. Dale Hall,

Acting Regional Director, Fish and Wildlife Service.

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[FR Doc. 01-2270 Filed 2-9-01; 8:45 am]

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