[Federal Register Volume 71, Number 32 (Thursday, February 16, 2006)]
[Proposed Rules]
[Pages 8258-8264]
From the Federal Register Online via the Government Printing Office [www.gpo.gov]
[FR Doc No: 06-1443]



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DEPARTMENT OF THE INTERIOR

Fish and Wildlife Service

50 CFR Part 17

RIN 1018-AU52


Endangered and Threatened Wildlife and Plants; Proposed 
Designation of Critical Habitat for the Contiguous United States 
Distinct Population Segment of the Canada Lynx

AGENCY: Fish and Wildlife Service, Interior.

ACTION: Proposed rule; reopening of public comment period and 
clarification of proposed critical habitat designation.

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SUMMARY: We, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (Service), announce the 
reopening of the public comment period for the proposal to designate 
critical habitat for the contiguous United States distinct population 
segment of the Canada lynx (Lynx canadensis) under the Endangered 
Species Act of 1973, as amended, which was published on November 9, 
2005 (70 FR 68294). This will allow all interested parties the 
opportunity to comment on the proposed critical habitat designation. 
The public comment period is being reopened with this notice until 
April 30, 2006. In addition, we provide information and maps clarifying 
the areas proposed for critical habitat designation in the November 9, 
2005 (70 FR 68294) publication.

DATES: Comments on the proposed designation of critical habitat for the 
Canada lynx are due by April 30, 2006. Comments must be submitted 
directly to the Service (see ADDRESSES) on or before the deadline. Any 
comments received after the closing date may not be considered in the 
final determination on the proposal.

ADDRESSES: If you wish to comment, you may submit your comments and 
materials by any one of several methods:
    1. You may submit written comments and information by mail or hand-
delivery to Field Supervisor, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, Montana 
Ecological Services Office, 585 Shepard Way, Helena, Montana 59601.
    2. You may send comments by electronic mail (e-mail) to fw6_
lynx@fws.gov. Please see the Public Comments Solicited section below 
for file format and other information about electronic filing.
    The critical habitat proposal and supportive maps are available for 
viewing by appointment during regular business hours at the above 
address. All comments and materials received, as well as supporting 
documentation used in preparation of the proposed rule, will be 
available for public inspection, by appointment, during normal business 
hours at the above address. Information regarding this proposal is 
available on the Internet: http://mountain-prairie.fws.gov/species/
mammals/lynx/.

FOR FURTHER INFORMATION CONTACT: Lori Nordstrom, Montana Ecological 
Services Office (see ADDRESSES), telephone 406-449-5225 extension 208.

SUPPLEMENTARY INFORMATION:

Background

    We have received a number of requests to reopen the comment period 
for the proposal to designate critical habitat for the contiguous 
United States distinct population segment of the Canada lynx (Lynx 
canadensis) (lynx) pursuant to the Endangered Species Act of 1973, as 
amended (Act), which was published in the Federal Register on November 
9, 2005 (70 FR 68294). The original comment period closed on February 
7, 2006.
    The areas proposed for designation as critical habitat occur within 
four units in the States of Idaho (ID), Maine, Minnesota, Montana (MT), 
and Washington (WA). Because of difficulties obtaining accurate 
delineations of National Forest boundaries in the Northern Rocky 
Mountains (ID and MT) and Northern Cascades (WA) units in a timely 
manner, the area estimates for these two units in the proposed rule 
included National Forest lands although National Forest lands were not 
proposed as critical habitat for these two units. Tables 1 and 2 are 
provided below to correct the information in the November 9, 2005, 
proposed rule; these tables reflect our best estimate of the area and 
land ownership within these two proposed units. In total, approximately 
18,031 square miles (mi\2\) (46,699 square kilometers (km\2\)) fall 
within the boundaries of the proposed critical habitat designation.

   Table 1.--Area of the Four Critical Habitat Units Proposed for the
                               Canada Lynx
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          Critical habitat unit              Miles\2\      Kilometers\2\
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1. Maine................................          10,633          27,539
2. Minnesota............................           3,546           9,183
3. Northern Rocky Mountains (ID/MT).....           3,549           9,192
4. Northern Cascades (WA)...............             303             785
                                         -----------------
    Total...............................          18,031          46,699
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                            Table 2.--Critical Habitat Proposed for the Canada Lynx by Land Ownership and State (mi\2\/km\2\)
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                                                                Federal             State             Private             Tribal             Other
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Idaho....................................................          0.02/0.05              1/2.6                0/0                0/0                0/0
Maine....................................................             13/337          758/1,963       9,741/25,229             86/223              35/91
Minnesota................................................           440/1140        1,355/3,509        1,661/4,302             74/192              15/39
Montana..................................................        1,428/3,699            365/945        1,691/4,380                0/0            113/293
Washington...............................................            135/350            164/425                2/5                0/0                2/5
                                                          --------------------
    Total................................................        2,016/5,221        2,643/6,845      13,095/33,916            160/414            165/427
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    To further clarify the proposed critical habitat designation, in 
this notice we are republishing maps of each proposed unit. Map 1 
depicts Unit 1 (Maine); Map 2 depicts Unit 2 (Minnesota); Map 3 depicts 
Unit 3 (Northern Rockies); and Map 4 depicts Unit 4 (North Cascades). 
For the proposed critical habitat unit in Minnesota, our intention is 
that the proposed critical habitat boundary reflect Lynx Analysis Unit 
boundaries. Our narrative description of the

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proposed critical habitat boundary may not precisely match the 
boundaries of the Lynx Analysis Units, which, in some areas, were based 
on relatively obscure biogeographic boundaries. Furthermore, there have 
been minor changes in the boundary descriptions for the Minnesota unit 
that we are not republishing here but are available on our Web site: 
http://mountain-prairie.fws.gov/species/mammals/lynx/.
    We hereby solicit data and comments from the public on all aspects 
of the proposed critical habitat designation, including data on 
economic and other potential impacts of the designation. We are also 
soliciting public comments on inclusion of certain lands in the 
designation, the appropriateness of excluding lands from this 
designation that are covered by management plans that provide for the 
conservation of lynx, and our determination as to whether existing 
management plans provide special management and protection for lynx 
habitat.
    Critical habitat identifies specific areas that are essential to 
the conservation of a listed species and that may require special 
management considerations or protection. If the proposed rule is made 
final, section 7 of the Act will prohibit adverse modification of 
critical habitat by any activity funded, authorized, or carried out by 
any Federal agency. Federal agencies proposing actions affecting areas 
designated as critical habitat must consult with us on the effects of 
their proposed actions, pursuant to section 7(a)(2) of the Act.
    On the basis of public comment, during the development of the final 
rule we may find, among other things, that areas proposed are not 
essential to the conservation of the species or do not require special 
management considerations or protection, are appropriate for exclusion 
under section 4(b)(2) of the Act, or are not appropriate for exclusion, 
and in all of these cases, this information will be incorporated into 
the final designation. Final management plans and data supporting their 
effectiveness that address the conservation of the lynx must be 
submitted to us during the public comment period so that we can take 
them into consideration when making our final critical habitat 
determination.
    Comments are invited specifically concerning:
    (1) The reasons any habitat should or should not be determined to 
be critical habitat as provided by section 4 of the Act, including, but 
not limited to, whether the benefit of designation will outweigh any 
threats to the species due to designation;
    (2) Specific information on the amount and distribution of lynx 
habitat in the contiguous United States, and whether or not occupied 
habitat proposed for designation has features that are essential to the 
conservation of the species and why and what unoccupied habitat is 
essential to the conservation of the species and why;
    (3) Comments or information that may assist us with identifying or 
clarifying the Primary Constituent Elements (PCEs);
    (4) Land use designations and current or planned activities in 
areas proposed as critical habitat and their possible impacts on 
proposed critical habitat;
    (5) Any foreseeable economic, national security, or other potential 
impacts resulting from the proposed designation and, in particular, any 
impacts on small entities;
    (6) As discussed in the proposed rule, we are considering whether 
some of the lands we have identified as having features essential for 
the conservation of the lynx should not be included in the final 
designation of critical habitat if, prior to the final critical habitat 
designation, they are covered by final management plans that 
incorporate conservation measures for the lynx (i.e., the LCAS 
(Ruediger et al. 2000), or comparable). In particular, seven National 
Forests and one Bureau of Land Management (BLM) district are in the 
process of revising or amending their Land and Resource Management 
Plans (LRMP) to provide measures for lynx conservation. It is 
anticipated that all of these plans will be complete prior to 
promulgation of the final critical habitat designation. As a result, 
all National Forest and BLM plans would have measures that provide for 
conservation of lynx, and consequently will not be in need of special 
management or protection.
    Currently, National Forests that have not revised or amended their 
LRMPs operate under a Conservation Agreement with the Service in which 
the parties agree to take measures to reduce or eliminate adverse 
effects or risks to lynx and its occupied habitat pending amendments to 
LRMPs. The LCAS is a basis for implementing this Agreement.
    In addition, we will be evaluating the adequacy of existing 
management plans to conserve lynx on lands that are designated 
wilderness areas or National Parks, as discussed in the proposed rule.
    We specifically solicit comment on whether such areas meet the 
definition of critical habitat based on:
    (A) Whether these areas contain features essential to the 
conservation of the lynx;
    (B) The adequacy of these management plans or the Conservation 
Agreement to provide special management and protection to lynx habitat;
    Any of these lands identified above may, if appropriate, be 
included in the final critical habitat designation, even if not 
proposed for designation in this notice.
    (7) Our proposal to not include tribal lands in the Maine and 
Minnesota units under the Secretarial Order Number 3206. The size of 
the individual reservation lands in the Maine and Minnesota units is 
relatively small. As a result, we believe conservation of the lynx can 
be achieved by limiting the designation to the other lands in the 
proposed units (see ``Relationship of Critical Habitat to Tribal 
Lands'' below).
    (8) Whether lands in three areas are essential for the conservation 
of the species and the basis for why they might be essential. These 
areas are: (a) The Greater Yellowstone Ecosystem (Wyoming, Montana, and 
Idaho); (b) the ``Kettle Range'' in Ferry County, Washington; and (c) 
the Southern Rocky Mountains,
    (9) How the proposed boundaries of critical habitat units could be 
refined to more closely conform to the boreal forest types occupied by 
lynx. Maps that accurately depict the specific vegetation types on all 
land ownerships were not readily available. Additionally, even if 
accurate, detailed vegetation maps were available, we were unsure how 
to delineate and describe critical habitat boundaries that solely 
encompassed lands containing the features essential to the conservation 
of the lynx.
    (10) Whether our approach to designating critical habitat could be 
improved or modified in any way to provide for greater public 
participation and understanding, or to assist us in accommodating 
public concerns and comments.
    If you wish to comment, you may submit your comments and materials 
concerning the proposal by any one of several methods (see ADDRESSES 
section). Please submit Internet comments to fw6_lynx@fws.gov in ASCII 
file format and avoid the use of special characters or any form of 
encryption. Please also include ``Attn: lynx comments'' in your e-mail 
subject header and your name and return address in the body of your 
message. If you do not receive a confirmation from the system that we 
have received your Internet message, contact us directly by calling our 
Montana Ecological Services Office at telephone number 406-449-5225.

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    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, which we will honor to the extent allowable by law. 
If you wish us to withhold your name or address, you must state this 
request prominently at the beginning of your comments. However, we will 
not consider anonymous comments. To the extent consistent with 
applicable law, 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.
    Comments and materials received, as well as supporting 
documentation used in preparation of the proposal to designate critical 
habitat, will be available for public inspection, by appointment, 
during normal business hours at the Montana Ecological Services Office 
(see ADDRESSES section).

Author

    The primary author of this notice is Lori Nordstrom, Montana 
Ecological Services Office (see ADDRESSES).

Authority

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

    Dated: February 9, 2006.
Matt Hogan,
Acting Assistant Secretary for Fish and Wildlife and Parks.
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[FR Doc. 06-1443 Filed 2-15-06; 8:45 am]
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