[Federal Register Volume 74, Number 36 (Wednesday, February 25, 2009)]
[Rules and Regulations]
[Pages 8615-8702]
From the Federal Register Online via the Government Publishing Office [www.gpo.gov]
[FR Doc No: E9-3512]



[[Page 8615]]

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Part II





Department of the Interior





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Fish and Wildlife Service



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50 CFR Part 17



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

Federal Register / Vol. 74, No. 36 / Wednesday, February 25, 2009 / 
Rules and Regulations

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DEPARTMENT OF THE INTERIOR

Fish and Wildlife Service

50 CFR Part 17

[FWS-R6-ES-2008-0026; 92210-1117-0000-B4]
RIN 1018-AV78


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

AGENCY: Fish and Wildlife Service, Interior.

ACTION: Final rule.

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SUMMARY: We, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (Service), designate 
revised critical habitat for the contiguous United States distinct 
population segment of the Canada lynx (Lynx canadensis) (lynx) under 
the Endangered Species Act of 1973, as amended (Act). In total, 
approximately 39,000 square miles (mi2) (101,010 square 
kilometers (km2)) fall within the boundaries of the revised 
critical habitat designation, in five units in the States of Maine, 
Minnesota, Montana, Wyoming, Idaho, and Washington.

DATES: This rule becomes effective on March 27, 2009.

ADDRESSES: Comments and materials received, as well as supporting 
documentation used in the preparation of this final rule, are available 
for public inspection, by appointment, during normal business hours, at 
the Montana Ecological Services Office, 585 Shepard Way, Helena, MT 
59601; telephone 406-449-5225. The final rule, environmental 
assessment, and economic analysis are available on the Internet at 
http://www.regulations.gov and at http://mountain-prairie.fws.gov/species/mammals/lynx/criticalhabitat.htm.

FOR FURTHER INFORMATION CONTACT: Mark Wilson, Field Supervisor, Montana 
Ecological Services Office (see ADDRESSES section) (406-449-5225); Lori 
Nordstrom, Field Supervisor, Maine Field Office (207-827-5938); Tony 
Sullins, Field Supervisor, Twin Cities Ecological Services Office 
(Minnesota) (612-725-3548); or Mark Miller, Field Supervisor, Upper 
Columbia Fish and Wildlife Office (Washington) (509-891-6839).

SUPPLEMENTARY INFORMATION:

Background

    It is our intent to discuss only topics relevant to the revised 
designation of critical habitat in this rule. For more information 
about the listing of the Canada lynx, refer to the final listing rule 
published in the Federal Register on March 24, 2000 (65 FR 16052), the 
clarification of findings published in the Federal Register on July 3, 
2003 (68 FR 40076), the proposed rule to designate revised critical 
habitat rule published in the Federal Register on February 28, 2008 (73 
FR 10860), and the notice announcing the availability of the draft 
economic analysis (DEA), draft environmental assessment, and reopening 
the comment period that published on October 21, 2008 (73 FR 62450).

Species Information

    Canada lynx are medium-sized cats, generally measuring 30 to 35 
inches (in) (75 to 90 centimeters (cm)) long and weighing 18 to 23 
pounds (8 to 10.5 kilograms) (Quinn and Parker 1987, Table 1). They 
have large, well-furred feet and long legs for traversing snow; tufts 
on the ears; and short, black-tipped tails.
    Lynx are highly specialized predators of snowshoe hare (Lepus 
americanus) (McCord and Cardoza 1982, p. 744; Quinn and Parker 1987, 
pp. 684-685; Aubry et al. 2000, pp. 375-378). Lynx and snowshoe hares 
are strongly associated with what is broadly described as boreal forest 
(Bittner and Rongstad 1982, p. 154; McCord and Cardoza 1982, p. 743; 
Quinn and Parker 1987, p. 684; Agee 2000, p. 39; Aubry et al. 2000, pp. 
378-382; Hodges 2000a, pp. 136-140 and 2000b, pp. 183-191; McKelvey et 
al. 2000b, pp. 211-232). The predominant vegetation of boreal forest is 
conifer trees, primarily species of spruce (Picea spp.) and fir (Abies 
spp.) (Elliot-Fisk 1988, pp. 34-35, 37-42). In the contiguous United 
States, the boreal forest types transition to deciduous temperate 
forest in the Northeast and Great Lakes and to subalpine forest in the 
west (Agee 2000, pp. 40-41). Lynx habitat can generally be described as 
moist boreal forests that have cold, snowy winters and a snowshoe hare 
prey base (Quinn and Parker 1987, p. 684-685; Agee 2000, pp. 39-47; 
Aubry et al. 2000, pp. 373-375; Buskirk et al. 2000b, pp. 397-405; 
Ruggiero et al. 2000, pp. 445-447). In mountainous areas, the boreal 
forests that lynx use are characterized by scattered moist forest types 
with high hare densities in a matrix of other habitats (e.g., 
hardwoods, dry forest, non-forest) with low hare densities. In these 
areas, lynx incorporate the matrix habitat (non-boreal forest habitat 
elements) into their home ranges and use it for traveling between 
patches of boreal forest that support high hare densities where most 
foraging occurs.
    Snow conditions also determine the distribution of lynx (Ruggiero 
et al. 2000, pp. 445-449). Lynx are morphologically and physiologically 
adapted for hunting snowshoe hares and surviving in areas that have 
cold winters with deep, fluffy snow for extended periods. These 
adaptations provide lynx a competitive advantage over potential 
competitors, such as bobcats (Lynx rufus) or coyotes (Canis latrans) 
(McCord and Cardoza 1982, p. 748; Buskirk et al. 2000a, pp. 86-95; 
Ruediger et al. 2000, p. 1-11; Ruggiero et al. 2000, pp. 445, 450). 
Bobcats and coyotes have a higher foot load (more weight per surface 
area of foot), which causes them to sink into the snow more than lynx. 
Therefore, bobcats and coyotes cannot efficiently hunt in fluffy or 
deep snow and are at a competitive disadvantage to lynx. Long-term snow 
conditions presumably limit the winter distribution of potential lynx 
competitors such as bobcats (McCord and Cardoza 1982, p. 748) or 
coyotes.

Lynx Habitat Requirements

    Because of the patchiness and temporal nature of high-quality 
snowshoe hare habitat, lynx populations require large boreal forest 
landscapes to ensure that sufficient high quality snowshoe hare habitat 
is available and to ensure that lynx may move freely among patches of 
suitable habitat and among subpopulations of lynx. Populations that are 
composed of a number of discrete subpopulations, connected by 
dispersal, are called metapopulations (McKelvey et al. 2000c, p. 25). 
Individual lynx maintain large home ranges (reported as generally 
ranging between 12 to 83 mi2 (31 to 216 km2)) 
(Koehler 1990, p. 847; Aubry et al. 2000, pp. 382-386; Squires and 
Laurion 2000, pp. 342-347; Squires et al. 2004b, pp. 13-16, Table 6; 
Vashon et al. 2005a, pp. 7-11). The size of lynx home ranges varies 
depending on abundance of prey, the animal's gender and age, the 
season, and the density of lynx populations (Koehler 1990, p. 849; 
Poole 1994, pp. 612-616; Slough and Mowat 1996, pp. 951, 956; Aubry et 
al. 2000, pp. 382-386; Mowat et al. 2000, pp. 276-280; Vashon et al. 
2005a, pp. 9-10). When densities of snowshoe hares decline, for 
example, lynx enlarge their home ranges to obtain sufficient amounts of 
food to survive and reproduce.
    In the contiguous United States, the boreal forest landscape is 
naturally patchy and transitional because it is the southern edge of 
the boreal forest range. This generally limits snowshoe hare 
populations in the contiguous United States from achieving densities 
similar to those of the expansive northern

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boreal forest in Canada (Wolff 1980, pp. 123-128; Buehler and Keith 
1982, pp. 24, 28; Koehler 1990, p. 849; Koehler and Aubry 1994, p. 84). 
Additionally, the presence of more snowshoe hare predators and 
competitors at southern latitudes may inhibit the potential for high-
density hare populations (Wolff 1980, p. 128). As a result, lynx 
generally occur at relatively low densities in the contiguous United 
States compared to the high lynx densities that occur in the northern 
boreal forest of Canada (Aubry et al. 2000, pp. 375, 393-394) or the 
densities of species such as the bobcat, which is a habitat and prey 
generalist.
    Lynx are highly mobile and generally move long distances (greater 
than 60 mi (100 km)) (Aubry et al. 2000, pp. 386-387; Mowat et al. 
2000, pp. 290-294). Lynx disperse primarily when snowshoe hare 
populations decline (Ward and Krebs 1985, pp. 2821-2823; O'Donoghue et 
al. 1997, pp. 156, 159; Poole 1997, pp. 499-503). Subadult lynx 
disperse even when prey is abundant (Poole 1997, pp. 502-503), 
presumably to establish new home ranges. Lynx also make exploratory 
movements outside their home ranges (Aubry et al. 2000, p. 386; Squires 
et al. 2001, pp. 18-26).
    The boreal forest landscape is naturally dynamic. Forest stands 
within the landscape change as they undergo succession after natural or 
human-caused disturbances such as fire, insect epidemics, wind, ice, 
disease, and forest management (Elliot-Fisk 1988, pp. 47-48; Agee 2000, 
pp. 47-69). As a result, lynx habitat within the boreal forest 
landscape is typically patchy because the boreal forest contains stands 
of differing ages and conditions, some of which are suitable as lynx 
foraging or denning habitat (or will become suitable in the future due 
to forest succession) and some of which serve as travel routes for lynx 
moving between foraging and denning habitat (McKelvey et al. 2000a, pp. 
427-434; Hoving et al. 2004, pp. 290-292).
    Snowshoe hares comprise a majority of the lynx diet (Nellis et al. 
1972, pp. 323-325; Brand et al. 1976, pp. 422-425; Koehler 1990, p. 
848; Apps 2000, pp. 358-359, 363; Aubry et al. 2000, pp. 375-378; Mowat 
et al. 2000, pp. 267-268; von Kienast 2003, pp. 37-38; Squires et al. 
2004b, p. 15, Table 8). When snowshoe hare populations are low, female 
lynx produce few or no kittens that survive to independence (Nellis et 
al. 1972, pp. 326-328; Brand et al. 1976, pp. 420, 427; Brand and Keith 
1979, pp. 837-838, 847; Poole 1994, pp. 612-616; Slough and Mowat 1996, 
pp. 953-958; O'Donoghue et al. 1997, pp. 158-159; Aubry et al. 2000, 
pp. 388-389; Mowat et al. 2000, pp. 285-287). Lynx prey 
opportunistically on other small mammals and birds, particularly during 
lows in snowshoe hare populations, but alternate prey species may not 
sufficiently compensate for low availability of snowshoe hares, 
resulting in reduced lynx populations (Brand et al. 1976, pp. 422-425; 
Brand and Keith 1979, pp. 833-834; Koehler 1990, pp. 848-849; Mowat et 
al. 2000, pp. 267-268).
    In northern Canada, lynx populations fluctuate in response to the 
cycling of snowshoe hare populations (Hodges 2000a, pp. 118-123; Mowat 
et al. 2000, pp. 270-272). Although snowshoe hare populations in the 
northern portion of their range show strong, regular population cycles, 
these fluctuations are generally much less pronounced in the southern 
portion of their range in the contiguous United States (Hodges 2000b, 
pp. 165-173). In the contiguous United States, the degree to which 
regional lynx population fluctuations are influenced by local snowshoe 
hare population dynamics is unclear. However, it is anticipated that 
because of natural fluctuations in snowshoe hare populations, there 
will be periods when lynx densities are extremely low.
    Because lynx population dynamics, survival, and reproduction are 
closely tied to snowshoe hare availability, snowshoe hare habitat is a 
component of lynx habitat. Lynx generally concentrate their foraging 
and hunting activities in areas where snowshoe hare populations are 
high (Koehler et al. 1979, p. 442; Ward and Krebs 1985, pp. 2821-2823; 
Murray et al. 1994, p. 1450; O'Donoghue et al. 1997, pp. 155, 159-160 
and 1998, pp. 178-181). Snowshoe hares are most abundant in forests 
with dense understories that provide forage, cover to escape from 
predators, and protection during extreme weather (Wolfe et al. 1982, 
pp. 665-669; Litvaitis et al. 1985, pp. 869-872; Hodges 2000a, pp. 136-
140 and 2000b, pp. 183-195). Generally, hare densities are higher in 
regenerating, earlier successional forest stages because they have 
greater understory structure than mature forests (Buehler and Keith 
1982, p. 24; Wolfe et al. 1982, pp. 665-669; Koehler 1990, pp. 847-848; 
Hodges 2000b, pp. 183-195; Homyack 2003, pp. 63, 141; Griffin 2004, pp. 
84-88). However, snowshoe hares can be abundant in mature forests with 
dense understories (Griffin 2004, pp. 53-54).
    Within the boreal forest, lynx den sites are located where coarse 
woody debris, such as downed logs and windfalls, provides security and 
thermal cover for lynx kittens (McCord and Cardoza 1982, pp. 743-744; 
Koehler 1990, pp. 847-849; Slough 1999, p. 607; Squires and Laurion 
2000, pp. 346-347; Organ 2001). The amount of structure (e.g., downed, 
large, woody debris) appears to be more important than the age of the 
forest stand for lynx denning habitat (Mowat et al. 2000, pp. 10-11).

Future of Lynx Habitat

    In 2003, we determined that climate change was not a threat to lynx 
within the contiguous U.S. DPS because the best available science we 
had at that time (Hoving 2001) was too uncertain in nature (68 FR 
40083). Since that time, new information on regional climate changes 
and potential effects to lynx habitat has been developed (e.g., 
Gonzalez et al. 2007, entire; Knowles et al. 2006, pp. 4545-4559; Danby 
and Hick 2007, pp. 358-359), and this new information suggests that 
climate change may be an issue of concern for the future conservation 
of lynx because lynx distribution and habitat is likely to shift upward 
in elevation within its currently occupied range as temperatures 
increase (Gonzalez et al. 2007, pp. 7, 13-14, 19). This information, 
combined with the information in Hoving 2001, still needs to be 
evaluated further to determine how climate change might affect lynx and 
lynx habitat. We are evaluating this information in the 5-year review 
we are conducting for lynx.
    At this time, we find it appropriate to designate critical habitat 
for the lynx in areas occupied by the species that currently contain 
the physical and biological features essential to the conservation of 
the lynx. Revisions to the critical habitat designation may be 
necessary in the future to accommodate shifts in the occupied range of 
the lynx. The revised critical habitat units in this rule include 
higher-elevation habitats that lynx would be able to continue to use if 
lynx distribution or habitat shifted upward in elevation.

Previous Federal Actions

    For more information on previous Federal actions concerning the 
lynx, refer to the final listing rule published in the Federal Register 
on March 24, 2000 (65 FR 16052), the clarification of findings 
published in the Federal Register on July 3, 2003 (68 FR 40076), and 
the final rule designating critical habitat for lynx published in the 
Federal Register on November 9, 2006 (71 FR 66007). On July 20, 2007, 
we announced that we would review the November 9, 2006, final critical 
habitat rule after questions were raised about the integrity of 
scientific information used and whether the decision made was 
consistent with the appropriate legal standards. Based on our review of

[[Page 8618]]

the previous final critical habitat designation, we determined that the 
critical habitat designation was improperly influenced by then deputy 
assistant secretary of the Interior Julie MacDonald and, as a result, 
may not be supported by the record, may not be adequately explained, or 
may not comport with the best available scientific and commercial 
information. On January 15, 2008, the U.S. District Court for the 
District of Columbia issued an order stating the Service's deadlines 
for a proposed rule for revised critical habitat by February 15, 2008, 
and a final rule for revised critical habitat by February 15, 2009. 
Consequently, our proposed rule was signed on February 13, 2008, and 
submitted to the Federal Register. The proposed rule was subsequently 
published in the Federal Register on February 28, 2008 (73 FR 10860). 
We initiated a 5-year review of the status of lynx on April 18, 2007 
(72 FR 19549).

Summary of Comments and Recommendations

    We requested written comments from the public on the proposed 
revised designation of critical habitat for the lynx during two comment 
periods. The first comment period, associated with the publication of 
the proposed revised rule (73 FR 10860), opened on February 28, 2008, 
and closed on April 28, 2008. Five informal public meetings were held 
during this comment period in Washington (2), Minnesota (2), and Maine 
(1). We also requested comments on the proposed revised critical 
habitat designation, associated DEA, and draft environmental assessment 
during a second comment period which opened October 21, 2008, and 
closed on November 20, 2008 (73 FR 62450). During this comment period, 
we held a public hearing on November 7, 2008, in Kalispell, Montana, 
and one on November 13, 2008, in Cody, Wyoming. We contacted 
appropriate Federal, State, and local agencies; Tribes; scientific 
organizations; and other interested parties and invited them to comment 
on the proposed rule, DEA, and draft environmental assessment.
    During the comment period for the proposed rule that was open 
between February 28, 2008, and April 28, 2008, we received a total of 
338 comment letters. For the comment period open from October 21, 2008, 
to November 20, 2008, we received 184 comment letters and 17 comments 
at the two public hearings. Comments were received from Federal, State, 
Tribal and local governments, non-government organizations, private 
businesses, and individuals.
    In accordance with our policy published on July 1, 1994 (59 FR 
34270), we solicited expert opinions from 17 knowledgeable individuals 
with scientific expertise that included familiarity with the species, 
the geographic region in which the species occurs, and conservation 
biology principles. We received responses from three of the peer 
reviewers. The peer reviewers had differing assessments of our methods 
and conclusions and provided additional information, clarifications, 
and suggestions to improve the final critical habitat rule. Peer 
reviewer comments are addressed in the following summary and 
incorporated into the final rule as appropriate.
    We reviewed all comments received from the peer reviewers and the 
public for substantive issues and new information regarding critical 
habitat for the lynx, and we addressed them in the following summary.

Peer Review Comments

    (1) Comment: Some peer reviewers commented that Federal lands 
should be included in the final rule due to their importance for lynx 
in the Distinct Population Segment area and because designation would 
provide clarification to land managers as to the importance of 
conserving those lands. The general public also submitted comments 
noting this issue.
    Our response: We agree that that in all units except Unit 1 (where 
Federal lands make up a very small portion of the designation), Federal 
lands are an essential component of the revised critical habitat 
designation. We have designated critical habitat on Federal lands, as 
described in this final rule.
    (2) Comment: Some peer reviewers and other commenters stated that 
our criteria (especially regarding evidence of occupancy and 
reproduction) for defining lynx critical habitat were too narrow or 
arbitrary, and resulted in omission of areas they consider important to 
lynx conservation, particularly the Selkirk and Kettle Mountains, the 
Southern Rockies/Colorado, and a slightly more extensive area in 
Minnesota. Other general comments addressed expanding the Greater 
Yellowstone Area (GYA) to include Grand Teton National Park and 
southwest Wyoming to protect a corridor for dispersal. Other comments 
noted the GYA should not be included in critical habitat because it is 
isolated from populations in Canada. Several peer reviewers noted that 
it has not been established that the Southern Rockies population is 
isolated, and therefore this area should be considered critical 
habitat. Additionally, we received comments recommending we designate 
critical habitat according to the lynx recovery outline, which included 
the areas of concern noted above by peer reviewers in addition to areas 
considered secondary or peripheral to recovery.
    General comments also were concerned with our criteria, asserting 
we should not restrict our designation solely to areas with confirmed 
evidence of the presence of reproducing lynx populations because lynx 
surveys have not been adequate to detect all reproducing lynx 
populations. General comments also questioned why critical habitat 
designation was restricted to areas of confirmed evidence of 
reproducing lynx populations and that our revised critical habitat 
designation should be extended to all occupied areas, areas currently 
managed for lynx, all habitats supporting snowshoe hares, and 
unoccupied areas in the historic range of the lynx.
    Our response: Critical habitat is defined in section 3 of the Act 
as: (1) The specific areas within the geographical area occupied by a 
species, at the time it is listed in accordance with the Act, on which 
are found those physical or biological features (a) essential to the 
conservation of the species and (b) which may require special 
management considerations or protection; and (2) specific areas outside 
the geographical area occupied by a species at the time it is listed, 
upon a determination that such areas are essential for the conservation 
of the species. Not all locations with records of lynx presence are 
essential for the conservation of the species; lynx are a wide-ranging 
species, and areas containing periodic records that lack evidence of 
reproducing populations are not considered essential to the species 
(see Criteria Uses to Identify Critical Habitat section below). In that 
section of the proposed and final revised critical habitat rules, we 
describe in detail the parameters used for delineating areas that 
contain the physical and biological features essential to the 
conservation of lynx, as required by the definition of critical habitat 
when considering occupied areas. We also determined that occupied areas 
containing the features essential to the conservation of lynx support 
the majority of recent lynx records and evidence of breeding lynx 
populations since 1995.
    We relied on records since 1995 to ensure that the revised critical 
habitat designation is based on the best available data that most 
closely represents the current status of lynx in the contiguous United 
States and the

[[Page 8619]]

geographic area occupied by the species. We recognize that adequate 
surveys to confirm the presence of lynx populations have not occurred 
everywhere throughout the species' range; however, no information was 
provided to us during the public comment periods to suggest where there 
might be locations with undetected breeding populations that we should 
more closely evaluate for designation as critical habitat other than 
the areas we already considered. We determined that the additional 
areas suggested by commenters are secondary or peripheral areas not 
essential to the conservation of the lynx.
    While reviewing our original critical habitat proposal published on 
November 9, 2005 (70 FR 68294), we determined that habitat in the GYA 
contained the physical and biological features essential to the 
conservation of lynx; in addition, the GYA has a long history of lynx 
presence and reproduction, and its geographic location connects lynx 
populations in Canada to lynx habitat in Colorado and Utah. However, we 
designated areas within the GYA that contain the physical and 
biological features essential to lynx in sufficient quantity and 
spatial arrangement as demonstrated by their consistent use by lynx. 
The entire GYA may be permanently or intermittently occupied by lynx. 
Lynx may expand into Grand Teton National Park and additional areas in 
southwestern Wyoming not in the current critical habitat designation, 
but we have no indication that the habitat contains the physical and 
biological features essential to the species in necessary quantities to 
support populations of lynx.
    The methodology we used in defining areas for lynx critical habitat 
did not mirror that used for the lynx recovery outline, but did reflect 
the biological concepts considered in the recovery outline. We used the 
best scientific information available in determining which areas 
contained the features essential for the conservation of lynx. As 
explained on pages 10869 to 10871 of the proposal to revise critical 
habitat (February 28, 2008; 73 FR 10860), the areas we determined to be 
essential for the conservation of lynx do not include all the areas 
identified in the recovery outline. The criteria we used for 
determining areas essential to the conservation of lynx for the revised 
critical habitat designation are based on the critical habitat 
requirements of the Act, which are more selective than those used for 
delineating the recovery areas in the lynx recovery outline. The 
recovery outline more broadly encompasses older records of lynx and 
gave less weight to direct connectivity with Canada, although in the 
recovery outline it was recognized that maintaining connectivity with 
Canadian lynx populations was important. Furthermore, the areas in the 
recovery outline were mapped conceptually, include substantial areas 
that do not contain the physical and biological features essential for 
lynx or are both unoccupied and not essential for lynx conservation, 
and therefore do not meet the definition of critical habitat. We 
refined our mapping for the purposes of designating critical habitat in 
order to meet the statutory requirements associated with critical 
habitat. As a result, areas determined to be essential to the 
conservation of lynx for the purposes of critical habitat did not 
include all the areas delineated in the recovery outline.
    The Kettle Range in north-central Washington historically supported 
lynx populations (Stinson 2001, pp. 13-14), and boreal forest habitat 
within the Kettle Range appears to contain habitat for lynx; however, 
there is no evidence that the Kettle Range is currently occupied by a 
reproducing lynx population (Koehler 2005 entire); therefore, it did 
not meet the methodology we used for determining occupancy (see 
Criteria Used To Identify Critical Habitat in the proposed rule, 
February 28, 2008; 73 FR 10860). In addition, while the Kettle Range 
contains physical and biological features important to lynx, its 
spatial configuration and quantity of habitat do not appear to be 
sufficient to support a breeding population of lynx.
    In the Southern Rockies, it is still uncertain whether a self-
sustaining lynx population will become established as a result of 
Colorado's reintroduction effort (Shenk 2007, p. 18). We recognize that 
this reintroduction has been an effort to recover the lynx in Colorado; 
however, the Southern Rockies contain marginal habitat, are on the 
southern limit of the species' range, and have not been shown to 
support a breeding population of lynx. Therefore, we find that habitat 
in Colorado is not essential to the conservation of species.
    (3) Comment: Some peer reviewers commented that wildfire prevention 
and suppression activities would not be precluded by critical habitat 
designation and that areas occurring within the wildland-urban 
interface (WUI) should not be excluded or exclusions should be limited 
to narrowly defined areas in the immediate vicinity of structures. Some 
general comments stated that WUI areas should be included in critical 
habitat because urban interface concerns could be used as an excuse to 
allow developmental sprawl and meet timber harvest quotas. Commenters 
raised concerns that lynx habitat management would increase wildfire 
risk to forests and communities and requested that WUI areas be 
excluded from critical habitat designation. Other commenters noted that 
recent forest fires eliminated PCEs in some areas, so removal of those 
lands from critical habitat designation is justified. Other commenters 
requested that additional critical habitat be designated as buffers 
against fire-produced habitat loss.
    Our response: Areas within the WUI are designated as lynx critical 
habitat as described in this rule. Wildfire is not thought to be a 
threat to lynx, and often results in beneficial effects when burned 
areas regenerate into lynx foraging habitat. As described in the final 
rule listing the lynx (March 24, 2000, 65 FR 16052), natural fire plays 
an important role in creating the mosaic of vegetation patterns, forest 
stand ages, and structure that provide good lynx and snowshoe hare 
habitat, particularly in the western Great Lakes region and in the 
western mountain ranges of the United States (Agee 2000, pp. 47-56).
    Currently, WUI areas are defined by a variety of methods varying 
from the defensible space immediately surrounding structures out into 
forest areas within several miles of communities. The designation of 
critical habitat will not prohibit protection of defensible space 
around homes or the WUI. The regulatory provisions of critical habitat 
affect actions on Federal lands or with a Federal nexus. We expect that 
a majority of urban interface fuels projects would occur under the 
authority of the U.S. Forest Service (USFS). The Northern Rockies Lynx 
Management Direction (NRLMD) amending the National Forest's management 
plans to protect lynx addresses additional fuels reduction projects in 
areas within the WUI. In our analysis of the NRLMD (USFWS 2007, pp. 67-
68) during section 7 consultation with the USFS, we determined that 
even with additional fuels reduction, the management in the NRLMD would 
provide for the recovery of lynx in these areas. Areas burned may still 
contain the physical and biological features essential to lynx; those 
areas still represent boreal landscapes supporting a mosaic of 
differing successional forest stages.
    We are designating all habitat that meets the criteria for critical 
habitat, i.e., known to be occupied at the time of listing and 
containing the physical and biological features essential to the 
conservation of the species. Neither the

[[Page 8620]]

Act nor the implementing regulations provide for designating additional 
areas as buffers.
    (4) Comment: Some peer reviewers suggested that the proposed 
revised rule incorrectly characterized lynx foraging habitat, 
particularly in the western critical habitat units, by failing to 
highlight the importance of mature, multistoried forest stands for lynx 
in this area.
    Our response: Recent studies have shown that mature, multistoried 
stands are important foraging habitat for lynx in Unit 3, and they are 
likely important in Units 4 and 5 as well. We have added language to 
clarify this in the final rule.
    (5) Comment: Some peer reviewers felt that statements in the 
proposed revised rule concerning the low sensitivity of lynx to forest 
management practices were misleading.
    Our response: The statement in the proposed revised rule raised by 
commenters relates to ``matrix habitat,'' which is habitat that 
surrounds patches of foraging and denning habitat. Matrix habitat, by 
definition, is habitat that is crucial for preserving the ability of 
lynx to move between foraging and denning areas. However, the 
vegetative condition and structure of matrix habitat is not relevant to 
its value. For this reason, we do not foresee the need for prescriptive 
management for lynx in matrix habitat beyond maintaining the ability 
for lynx to move through this habitat to access other habitat types 
within a home range. We do recognize that lynx are sensitive to forest 
management practices in foraging and denning habitat and that forest 
management activities can have significant positive and negative 
impacts on lynx depending on the nature and timing and activities.
    (6) Comment: Some commenters expressed that seasonal differences in 
lynx habitat preference is poorly articulated in the proposed revised 
rule. One commenter pointed out that lynx starvation in northwestern 
Montana during late winter-early spring is tied to the abundance and 
quality of winter habitat (mature, multistoried forest) and is the 
primary issue for lynx conservation in this area.
    Our response: Lynx use a variety of habitat types and conditions 
during the year, which is why we drew the boundaries of the critical 
habitat units to include entire landscapes of boreal forest in a 
variety of successional stages that account for year-round habitat 
needs.
    (7) Comment: Several peer reviewers and other commenters noted the 
important role that private lands play in lynx conservation and stated 
that the final rule should better define the degree to which private 
lands contribute to lynx persistence.
    Our response: Through the process of developing our proposed 
revised rule and subsequent modifications, we determined which lands 
contain features essential to the conservation of lynx. Private lands 
were included because of their value for lynx conservation. The 
relative contribution of private lands to lynx conservation varies 
between the five revised critical habitat units. Unit 1 is almost 
entirely comprised of private land, and therefore private lands provide 
almost the entire lynx habitat in this area. Conversely, Units 4 and 5 
have relatively little private land, with Federal lands providing the 
bulk of lynx habitat. Units 2 and 3 have a mix of private, Federal, and 
State lands. We recognize the essential nature of private lands for 
lynx conservation where we are designating those lands as critical 
habitat. We have retained private lands in this final designation in 
all cases except where we determined, under section 4(b)(2) of the Act, 
that the benefits of excluding specific areas were greater than the 
benefits of including those areas in the designation (see Application 
of Section 4(b)(2) of the Act for more information).
    (8) Comment: Some peer reviewers indicated that the statement in 
the proposed revised rule that snowshoe hares must be present over a 
large proportion of the landscape in order for that landscape to 
support lynx is incorrect. Reviewers cited the presence of lynx in the 
GYA and Northern Rockies as examples of lynx populations that exist 
despite the landscape not being dominated by forest types supporting 
snowshoe hares.
    Our response: While we still highlight that the proportion of the 
landscape that supports snowshoe hares is important, we acknowledge 
that the proportion of the landscape that must support snowshoe hares 
in order to support lynx is not known with certainty. Lynx populations 
may persist in some mountainous areas despite snowshoe hares occurring 
in relatively small and isolated patches. We have clarified this point 
in this final rule.
    (9) Comment: One peer reviewer recommended that the primary 
constituent element (PCE) identified for lynx be broadened to include 
multistoried stands of mature conifers with boughs that touch the snow 
surface, as these are important foraging habitats in Montana and 
elsewhere in the West.
    Our response: We agree, and we have provided clarification to that 
portion of the PCE in this final designation.
    (10) Comment: One peer reviewer stated that the definition of 
denning habitat in the proposed revised rule was not broad enough to 
capture all of the den sites used by lynx in Montana.
    Our response: The description of denning habitat in the proposed 
revised rule captures the type of habitat most used by lynx for denning 
in the contiguous United States. We believe that our description 
adequately captures lynx denning habitat for the purposes of 
delineating critical habitat in Montana and in other critical habitat 
units.
    (11) Comment: Several peer reviewers and one commenter provided 
views on the relative importance of Tribal lands for lynx conservation. 
Some thought we should have included some Tribal lands in the proposed 
revised rule. We received several comments, primarily from Tribes, 
recommending that all Tribal lands be excluded.
    Our response: In accordance with Secretarial Order 3206, ``American 
Indian Tribal Rights, Federal-Tribal Trust Responsibilities, and the 
Endangered Species Act'' (June 5, 1997); the President's memorandum of 
April 29, 1994, ``Government-to-Government Relations with Native 
American Tribal Governments'' (59 FR 22951); Executive Order 13175 
``Consultation and Coordination with Indian Tribal Governments;'' and 
the relevant provision of the Departmental Manual of the Department of 
the Interior (512 DM 2), we believe that fish, wildlife, and other 
natural resources on Tribal lands are better managed under Tribal 
authorities, policies, and programs than through Federal regulation 
wherever possible and practicable. Such designation is often viewed by 
Tribes as an unwanted intrusion into Tribal self governance, thus 
compromising the government-to-government relationship essential to 
achieving our mutual goals of managing for healthy ecosystems upon 
which the viability of threatened and endangered species populations 
depend.
    We contacted all Tribes potentially affected by the proposed 
revised designation and met with some of them to discuss their ongoing 
or future management strategies for lynx. Several Tribes subsequently 
submitted letters requesting exclusion based on their sovereign rights 
and concerns about the economic impact and effects on their ability to 
manage natural resources. As described in our proposed revised rule, we 
believe that conservation of lynx can be achieved without including 
Tribal lands within the revised critical habitat units. We determined 
that these lands are not essential to the conservation of lynx, but 
also, many of the Tribes have

[[Page 8621]]

management plans that provide for lynx habitat needs. The Tribal lands 
included in the proposed revised designation are found only in the 
Maine, Minnesota, and Montana units and the size of the areas are 
relatively small (approximately 223, 187, and 898 km2, 
respectively [86, 72, and 347 mi2]). We are excluding these 
Tribal lands from this final designation under section 4(b)(2) of the 
Act. See Exclusions Under Section 4(b)(2) of the Act for a discussion 
of why these lands have been excluded.
    (12) Comment: Some peer reviewers and commenters recommended we use 
lynx analysis unit (LAU) boundaries as defined by some agencies to 
define the critical habitat boundaries, because they used habitat-based 
processes to identify the best lynx habitat.
    Our response: We agree. After receiving numerous comments to this 
effect, we solicited lynx habitat data and LAU boundary data from 
Federal and State agencies, as well as private companies in and around 
the proposed revised critical habitat in Units 2, 3, 4, and 5. We then 
revised the critical habitat boundary to more closely reflect where 
lynx habitat occurs and followed LAU boundaries to the extent 
practicable (e.g., where doing so would not leave out significant lynx 
habitat or include significant areas of non-lynx habitat). These 
potential modifications were announced to the public when we announced 
the availability of the DEA and the draft environmental assessment (73 
FR 62450) on October 21, 2008.
    (13) Comment: Some peer reviewers questioned the need to consider 
climate change in a critical habitat designation. Other peer reviewers 
and commenters stated the need to designate critical habitat in high 
elevation habitats that are currently unsuitable for lynx occupancy but 
may become suitable with climate changes. Other commenters stated that 
climate change will render some proposed areas unsuitable; therefore, 
these areas should not be included in the designation. One commenter 
requested an analysis of climate change effects on each of the 
microclimes included in the Minnesota proposed critical habitat.
    Our response: We acknowledge that climate change could change the 
suitability of lynx habitat in the future. However, we are required to 
designate critical habitat based upon the best available scientific and 
commercial data at the time that we finalize the designation. At this 
point in time, reliable projections of future climate in lynx habitat 
in the contiguous United States are not available. However, for 
mountain-dwelling species like lynx, we conclude that higher elevation 
habitat is likely to become increasingly important in the face of 
climate changes. Designated critical habitat units include the highest-
elevation habitat in the areas, and these areas would likely become 
more important to the extent lynx distribution and habitat shift upward 
in elevation as temperatures increase. High elevation habitat was 
included in the proposed designation, and we have determined it is 
appropriate to include these areas in the final designation.

General Issues and Responses

    (1) Comment: We received numerous comments concerning possible 
restrictions imposed by critical habitat designation on economic, 
recreation, forest management, predator control, infrastructure, and 
energy transmission activities on private and public lands. Some 
commenters are concerned the designation provides a mechanism for 
increased third party litigation, and some asserted the designation of 
critical habitat constitutes an uncompensated taking of private 
property and is therefore illegal.
    Our response: Critical habitat has a direct regulatory impact on 
the actions of Federal agencies only. Therefore, a critical habitat 
designation on private land has no regulatory impact on actions carried 
out by landowners unless they seek Federal funding or a Federal permit 
to carry out those actions. For example, if landowners must obtain a 
permit from the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers (Corps) under section 404 
of the Clean Water Act (33 U.S.C. 1251 et seq. ) to carry out an action 
on their land, the Corps must consult under section 7 to evaluate the 
effects that the permitted activity may have on critical habitat. Even 
then, the designation may only have a substantial impact on the 
activity if it is likely to result in the destruction or adverse 
modification of the critical habitat. It is the responsibility of the 
Federal agency, not the private landowner, to initiate the consultation 
with the Service.
    The Act prohibits Federal agencies from carrying out actions that 
would destroy or adversely modify critical habitat. A Federal action 
(e.g., winter recreation, energy transmission, mining, or road 
construction) that is not likely to cause destruction or adverse 
modification of lynx habitat may not be materially affected by a 
critical habitat designation. Federal action agencies must evaluate the 
potential effects of each action on its own merits. If a Federal action 
would result in destruction or adverse modification of lynx habitat, 
the Service would suggest reasonable and prudent alternatives to avoid 
the destruction or adverse modification of critical habitat.
    Section 4(a)(3) of the Act requires that critical habitat be 
designated for listed species. The designation of critical habitat for 
lynx may increase the number of lawsuits brought forward by citizens 
opposed to certain actions. Although this is possible, these lawsuits 
may only have merit if the Federal agency that is funding, authorizing, 
or carrying out the action does not adequately consider its potential 
effects to critical habitat, or consult, as appropriate, with the 
Service in making its final decision.
    The promulgation of a regulation does not take private property 
unless the regulation denies the property owners all economically 
beneficial or productive use of their land. Further, in accordance with 
Executive Order 12630 (Government Actions and Interference with 
Constitutionally Protected Private Property Rights), we analyzed the 
potential takings implications of designating critical habitat for the 
lynx in a takings implications assessment (TIA), which is available on 
request. The conclusion in the TIA was that the possibility for take of 
private property due to designation of critical habitat for lynx is 
remote.
    (2) Comment: We received several comments stating that the proposed 
critical habitat designation area should be smaller, or that no 
critical habitat should be designated. These comments contained little 
explanation to support the recommendations. Other comments indicated 
that the area designated for critical habitat in Minnesota was too 
small to be significant to lynx survival.
    Our response: Section 4(a)(3) of the Act requires that critical 
habitat be designated for listed species. The lynx was listed as a 
threatened species under the Act on March 24, 2000 (65 FR 16052). Under 
section 4(b)(2), the Act requires that a critical habitat designation 
be made on the basis of the best scientific data available and after 
taking into consideration the economic impact and any other relevant 
impact of specifying any particular area as critical habitat. In order 
for us to consider excluding a particular area from a critical habitat 
designation based on economic or other relevant impacts, we need 
geographic specificity and supporting documentation that can be 
analyzed. The comments did not provide this information, making 
analysis for exclusion or explanation of inclusion impossible. In 
general, after considering the data available, we proposed areas for 
critical habitat that represented the breadth of ecological settings 
and sufficient number of

[[Page 8622]]

populations to satisfy the biological requirements of the lynx and the 
statutory requirements of the Act.
    We believe that the 8,200 mi2 (21,238 km2) of 
land in Minnesota proposed for critical habitat is a significant part 
of the designation. The high-quality lynx habitat proposed in the 
Minnesota unit comprises 20 percent of the total area proposed for 
critical habitat in the contiguous United States. In addition, the 
Minnesota unit is the only area in the Great Lakes region with strong, 
long-term evidence of the persistence of lynx populations. As we 
explained in detail in the Criteria Used To Identify Critical Habitat 
section in the proposed rule, the inclusion of the Minnesota unit is 
important in applying the conservation principles of representation, 
resiliency, and redundancy to the critical habitat designation for 
lynx. Focusing lynx conservation efforts, including critical habitat 
designation, on areas with a long-term presence of reproducing lynx and 
connectivity to populations in Canada has the greatest chance of 
ensuring the continued persistence of lynx in the contiguous United 
States.
    (3) Comment: One commenter indicated that indirect effects of State 
and local regulations may follow critical habitat designation.
    Our response: We recognize that State and local governments have 
the authority to promulgate regulations or local rules related to a 
critical habitat designation. However, listed species and their 
habitats are protected by the Act regardless of whether they are in 
areas designated as critical habitat. The draft economic analysis (DEA) 
addressed the potential for newly promulgated regulations or rules 
resulting from our critical habitat designation; none were anticipated. 
Therefore, we do not anticipate additional regulatory restrictions as a 
result of State or local regulations.
    (4) Comment: Comments included concerns about increased threats to 
lynx and lynx habitat due to development, vegetation management by 
Federal agencies that destroys snowshoe hare habitat, and the 
introduction and proliferation of wolves.
    Our response: Critical habitat designation identifies the specific 
areas within the geographical area occupied by the species that contain 
the physical and biological features essential to the conservation of 
the species, and which may require special management considerations or 
protection. Designation of critical habitat helps focus conservation 
and recovery activities. The designation of critical habitat by itself 
does not achieve conservation or recovery of a species, nor does it 
prohibit development or forest management activities that alter 
snowshoe hare habitat. The Act does not automatically restrict all uses 
of critical habitat, but only imposes restrictions under section 
7(a)(2) on Federal agency actions that may result in destruction or 
adverse modification of critical habitat. Each Federal action, 
including development, permitting, funding, and forest management, 
would be evaluated by the involved Federal agency, in consultation with 
the Service, in relation to its impact on the critical habitat. If, 
after evaluation and consultation, it is concluded that a proposed 
action is likely to result in the destruction or adverse modification 
of critical habitat, the Service is required to suggest reasonable and 
prudent alternatives to the action that would avoid the destruction or 
adverse modification of critical habitat.
    To a private property owner, the designation of critical habitat 
becomes important only when undertaking an activity that is authorized, 
funded, or completed by a Federal agency. Conservation actions, 
however, are not limited to Federal agencies. Lynx are protected on 
Federal and non-Federal lands through prohibitions and constraints of 
section 9 of the Act, regardless of critical habitat designation. 
Although consultation with the Service is not specifically stated in 
the Act, non-Federal activities, including development and forest 
management, may require permitting by the Service if an action would 
result in a taking of the species as described under section 9 of the 
Act.
    Other predator species could affect lynx negatively by competing 
for resources, direct predation of lynx, or both. Lynx are vulnerable 
to competition for prey because of a selective diet that relies heavily 
on snowshoe hare. Wolf prey competition is unlikely based on the minor 
inclusion of small mammals in their diet. Wolves could have a positive 
influence on lynx by killing coyotes that compete with lynx for rabbits 
and hares. Predation of lynx by wolves has not been identified as a 
threat to the species.
    (5) Comment: We received several comments requesting additional 
hearings, public meetings, or an extension of the public comment 
period. Some commenters stated that public participation was precluded 
by not adequately notifying landowners about the proposal and not 
having a completed economic analysis at the time the proposed rule was 
published. Some commenters felt that access to listing documents, 
including maps, was not convenient and that the Federal Register was an 
inadequate mechanism for notifying the public of the proposal.
    Our response: We made a concerted effort to provide public notice 
of this rulemaking. Because of the large scope of the proposed 
designation it was not possible to contact each landowner. However, we 
issued a widely-disseminated news release regarding our proposal, and 
published legal notices in major newspapers in areas involved in the 
proposal. We published Federal Register notices, including the critical 
habitat proposal, reopening of the comment period, and notice of 
availability of draft documents. We sent hundreds of letters, cards, 
and e-mails to State and Federal agencies, Tribal governments, local 
governments, private individuals, private companies, non-government 
organizations, and elected officials announcing the proposal, document 
availability, and public meetings and hearings. We also issued press 
releases concurrent with Federal Register notice announcements. A web 
page of lynx critical habitat materials and information has been 
maintained at http://mountain-prairie.fws.gov/species/mammals/lynx/criticalhabitat.htm.
    We received several requests for public hearings during the initial 
comment period for the proposed rule. Hearings were conducted as 
required under section 4(b)(5)(E) of the Act. Public hearings on the 
published proposal were held on November 7, 2008, in Kalispell, 
Montana, and November 13, 2008, in Cody, Wyoming. Open houses and 
meetings on the published proposal were held on March 25, 2008, Duluth, 
Minnesota; April 23, 2008, Bloomington, Minnesota; May 20, 2008, Grand 
Marais, Minnesota; March 25, 2008, Twisp, Washington; and April 2, 2008 
and November 10, 2008, Old Town, Maine. In the proposed rule we 
provided contact information for four Service Field Offices for anyone 
seeking further information on the proposed revised critical habitat 
designation. Therefore, we believe that we made a conscientious effort 
to reach all interested parties and provide avenues for them to obtain 
information concerning our proposal and supporting documents.
    We recognize the scale of the maps published in the Federal 
Register made it difficult to accurately identify whether particular 
parcels of land were included within the proposed designation. However, 
the descriptions that began on page 10881 of the proposed rule (73 FR 
10860; February 28, 2008) were provided to assist the public in 
understanding exactly which lands were proposed as critical habitat.

[[Page 8623]]

    We acknowledge that a draft economic analysis (DEA) was not 
available to the public at the time of publishing the proposed rule in 
the Federal Register. We considered it important to release the 
proposed rule to the public for review and comment as soon as possible. 
The DEA was released for public review as soon as it was completed. The 
comment period was then reopened for 30 days, and the public had an 
opportunity to submit comments on both the proposed rule and the 
accompanying DEA.
    (6) Comment: A commenter stated that the proposed critical habitat 
rule misrepresented the legal boundaries of Cook County townships in 
Minnesota leading to a lack of citizen participation. A commenter 
stated that we misrepresented critical habitat effects on private 
property, specifically that designation imposes a take permit system 
for non-Federal activities on private land, thereby limiting public 
participation and violating the National Environmental Policy Act 
(NEPA) (42 U.S.C. 4321 et seq.).
    Our response: We disagree on both issues. We believe that detailed 
and sufficient information was provided to the public that clearly 
delineated boundaries for critical habitat. The proposal included a 
statement on page 10882 that critical habitat does not include towns or 
populated areas as they now exist. The term ``now exist,'' is a 
function of the municipal boundaries that are not delineated by the 
Service but established, in most cases, by non-Federal, local entities. 
Numerous areas in Minnesota, including in Cook County, are not included 
in the critical habitat area. More detailed information on the 
boundaries of the proposed critical habitat was included on pages 10881 
through 10895, with specific delineations for Minnesota on pages 10886 
and 10887.
    Regulatory implications for private lands were clearly stated in 
the proposed rule. The designation of critical habitat for the lynx 
does not affect land ownership or establish a conservation area, does 
not allow the government or public to access private lands, and does 
not require (although it encourages) implementation of restoration, 
recovery, or enhancement measures by a landowner for the lynx. In 
situations where a landowner seeks Federal agency funding or 
authorization of an activity that may affect the lynx or its critical 
habitat, the Federal agency is responsible for complying with section 7 
of the Act to determine the impacts of its action on the lynx and its 
critical habitat. If Federal authorization or funding of the proposed 
private action is likely to result in the destruction or adverse 
modification of lynx critical habitat, the Service and the Federal 
action agency, in coordination with the landowner as an applicant, 
would cooperate in the development of a reasonable and prudent 
alternative that avoids that outcome and meets other specific criteria 
set forth in the regulations. The designation of critical habitat does 
not institute a permit requirement for the private landowner whose 
activity results in the take of a listed animal species. Any 
appropriate permitting became necessary at the time the lynx was listed 
in 2000.
    As stated in the response to Comment 5, we made a conscientious 
effort to reach all interested parties and provide avenues for them to 
obtain information, including an environmental assessment for NEPA 
compliance, and submit comments concerning our proposal.
    (7) Comment: Many commenters did not believe that the lynx 
qualified as a threatened species. Some commenters thought the species 
should be delisted, and others thought it should be listed as 
endangered. Some commenters believe that designation of critical 
habitat is necessary to recover lynx, but that designation of critical 
habitat prior to completion of a lynx recovery plan or other lynx 
conservation guidance is premature. Other commenters were concerned 
about the effectiveness of critical habitat designation and the 
ineffectiveness of single species management. Commenters stated that 
critical habitat designation was in conflict with Federal mining laws, 
and that other Federal agencies were not complying with the Endangered 
Species Act, Multiple-use Sustained-yield Act of 1960 (16 U.S.C. 528 et 
seq.), and others. Some commenters stated that the 2005 critical 
habitat rule was supported by the record and should not be changed.
    Our response: The lynx was listed as a threatened species under the 
Act on March 24, 2000 (65 FR 16052). Section 4(a)(3) of the Act 
requires that critical habitat be designated for listed species. This 
rule addresses the required critical habitat designation; listing 
actions are not part of the critical habitat rule.
    On January 15, 2008, the U.S. District Court for the District of 
Columbia ordered the Service to complete a final rule for revised 
critical habitat by February 15, 2009. A recovery plan need not be 
completed before critical habitat is designated, but is useful in 
guiding the designation if one exists. The drafting and finalization of 
a recovery plan for lynx has not been feasible due to work load and 
economic constraints. However, the lynx recovery outline was used to 
guide the proposed revised lynx critical habitat designation. The areas 
we considered in our methodology for defining critical habitat for the 
lynx did not mirror the exact areas identified in the recovery outline, 
but did reflect the biological concepts considered important in the 
recovery outline. We used the best science available in determining 
areas that contained the features essential for the conservation of 
lynx. Designation of critical habitat does not in itself bring about 
recovery, but designation of critical habitat can help focus 
conservation and recovery activities for listed species by identifying 
areas essential to conserve the species. Specific management 
recommendations for areas designated as critical habitat are most 
appropriately addressed in subsequent recovery and management plans.
    We agree that research is important, and that managing for a single 
species may not provide the maximum benefit for a biological community 
or an ecosystem as a whole. The purpose, however, of the this 
rulemaking is to comply with a directive of the Act to designate areas 
with the biological and physical features necessary for the 
conservation of the lynx.
    An analysis of the possible contradictions of statutes or the 
compliance of Federal agencies with relevant or unrelated laws is not 
within the purview of this critical habitat rule.
    While some believe that our previous designation was satisfactory, 
we reviewed the previous critical habitat rule for the lynx (71 FR 
66007; November 9, 2006) after questions were raised about the 
integrity of the scientific information used and whether the decision 
made was consistent with the appropriate legal standards. We determined 
that it was necessary to revise the critical habitat designation based 
on that review.
    (8) Comment: Some commenters questioned the presence of primary 
constituent elements (PCEs) for lynx in specific areas proposed as 
critical habitat, and recommended that the proposal be refined. 
Specific areas cited included the shore of Lake Superior, State of 
Wyoming, existing and proposed mining areas, and matrix habitat. Other 
commenters asserted that the boundaries we used (such as the 4,000-foot 
(ft), 1,219-meter (m)) elevation contour or highways were arbitrary and 
overly broad.
    Our response: We reviewed available maps, peer and public comments, 
and biological information received during the public comment period. 
Subsequently, portions of units that did not contain the PCE or where

[[Page 8624]]

development was concentrated were removed from the final designation. 
Any developed areas and the land on which structures are located inside 
critical habitat boundaries are excluded from critical habitat 
designation as is described in this final rule. In some areas, unit 
boundaries were expanded to incorporate adjacent lynx habitat that had 
been inadvertently left out of the proposed critical habitat.
    Designated critical habitat areas in Wyoming (Greater Yellowstone 
Area (GYA)--Unit 5) have confirmed records of reproducing lynx and 
contain lynx habitat similar to the Northern Rockies. Lynx are 
generally associated with the Rocky Mountain Conifer Forest vegetation 
class in Wyoming, which is dominated by subalpine fir, Engelman spruce, 
and lodgepole pine. As described in detail in the proposed rule on page 
10866, lynx habitat in the GYA is typically found in a widely scattered 
mosaic of matrix habitat. Individual lynx adjust their home range to 
incorporate land that is not typical lynx foraging habitat, but is used 
primarily for travel. The need for matrix habitat designated as 
critical habitat is most pronounced in the GYA, but matrix habitat is 
important in all designated areas to retain unimpeded movement of lynx 
between patches of suitable foraging and denning habitats.
    Roads and other human-made structures were used as boundaries for 
critical habitat where they clearly delineated areas with confirmed 
records of lynx reproduction and the presence of PCEs. In the 
Washington State Unit, the 4,000-ft (1,219-m) elevation contour is used 
to delineate the critical habitat boundary because the features 
essential to the conservation of lynx, the majority of lynx records, 
the evidence of reproduction, and the boreal forest types are found 
above 4,000 ft in Washington State.
    (9) Comment: Comments were received questioning why changes were 
made from the previous (2005) rule. Specific changes noted were the 
identification of lands requiring special management; inclusion in the 
current proposed rule of lands previously exempted under sections 
4(b)(2) and 3(5)(a) of the Act; and the expansion of critical habitat 
beyond the boundaries of Voyageurs National Park and the Boundary 
Waters Canoe Area in Minnesota.
    Our response: As explained in the ``Previous Federal Actions'' 
section on page 10863 of the February 28, 2008 proposed rule, we 
determined that it is necessary to revise the November 9, 2006, final 
critical habitat rule as a result of questions that were raised about 
the integrity of scientific information used in the 2006 designation 
and whether the decision made was consistent with the appropriate legal 
standard. As a result, we reconsidered all the lands that were 
designated, lands that were not designated under section 3(5)(a) of the 
Act, and lands excluded under section 4(b)(2) of the Act in the 2006 
designation.
    (10) Comment: Some commenters indicated that designation provides 
little or no additional benefit beyond the listing itself, and that 
critical habitat is not necessary because conservation occurs through 
other existing means such as the Lynx Conservation Assessment and 
Strategy (LCAS), National and State Forest Plans, and other actions. 
Other commenters expressed their support for critical habitat because 
the designation provides for educational and research opportunities, 
recreation, and economic and forest management benefits.
    Our response: Compliance with section 4(a)(3) of the Act 
necessitates that critical habitat be designated for listed species. It 
is true that a species and habitat upon which it depends are protected 
under provisions of the Act whether critical habitat is designated or 
not. However, a critical habitat designation identifies lands on which 
are found the physical and biological features essential to the 
conservation of the species that may require special management 
considerations, and areas outside the geographical area occupied by the 
species at the time of listing that are essential to the conservation 
of the species. The identification of these essential areas is 
important to guide management and provide for the recovery of the 
species.
    As explained in detail in the Benefits of Designating Critical 
Habitat section of this final rule, the consultation provisions under 
section 7(a) of the Act constitute the regulatory benefits of critical 
habitat. Federal agencies must consult with the Service on 
discretionary actions that may affect a listed species, and in 
addition, analyze the effects of an action to critical habitat. The 
analysis of the effects to critical habitat is a separate and different 
analysis from that of the effects to the species, and may provide 
greater regulatory benefits to the recovery of a species than listing 
alone.
    Since the lynx was proposed for listing in 1999, the U.S. Forest 
Service (USFS), Bureau of Land Management (BLM), and National Park 
Service (NPS) have been instrumental partners with the Service in 
conservation and recovery of the lynx, and in the development of the 
Lynx Conservation and Assessment Strategy (LCAS) (Reudiger et al. 
2000). The LCAS constitutes the best available information on 
conserving lynx, and identifies potential risk factors to lynx and lynx 
habitat and management guidance to reduce these risks. The Service and 
USFS are signatories to an agreement protecting lynx on national forest 
lands until all Land Resource Management Plans (LRMPs) for the relevant 
forests are amended to include the direction consistent with the LCAS. 
The National Forests in Units 2, 3, and 5 have all amended their forest 
plans, and the Okanogan-Wenatchee National Forest in Unit 4 is in the 
process of amending its LRMP. No Federal lands are included in the 
critical habitat designation in Unit 1.
    During the critical habitat designation process, we evaluated 
national forest areas to determine if they meet the definition of 
critical habitat (i.e., if they contain physical or biological features 
essential to conservation of the lynx and if these essential features 
may require special management or protection). National forest lands 
included in this final rule were found to have the essential features 
for lynx. The essential features on lands covered by management 
programs or plans that have been revised or amended to adopt the LCAS 
do require special management or protection, and therefore meet the 
definition of critical habitat in section 3(5)(A) of the Act.
    Lands proposed as critical habitat can be excluded from a final 
critical habitat designation under section 4(b)(2) of the Act where 
conservation is addressed by existing protective actions and the 
benefit of exclusion outweighs the benefit of inclusion, unless the 
failure to designate such area will result in the extinction of the 
species concerned. The ``Benefits of Excluding Non-Federal lands with 
Conservation Partnerships'' section in this rule details our analysis 
of excluding or including non-Federal lands.
    Critical habitat designation serves to educate the public and State 
and local governments regarding the potential conservation value of 
certain areas. Clearly delineating areas helps focus and promote 
conservation direction and actions. Critical habitat educational 
benefits, in general, may be redundant with other actions requiring 
significant public involvement, e.g., habitat conservation plans 
(HCPs). It is not possible to state broadly that research, recreation, 
and economies are benefitted by critical habitat designation. A listing 
under the Act itself focuses research on the species and habitat needs.

[[Page 8625]]

Recreation benefits are relative to the type of activity and location. 
Recreation or aesthetic benefits may come in the form of unquantifiable 
personal enjoyment or satisfaction. Ancillary benefits and costs to 
local economies were considered and described in the DEA to the extent 
data were available.
    (11) Comment: Some commenters questioned the adequacy of the 
Environmental Assessment (EA) and other aspects of our compliance with 
NEPA. They felt that the draft EA is lacking information, does not 
address recovery, and does not address the full range of alternatives. 
Some recommended an alternative that includes all core areas. Some felt 
that we should prepare an Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) on this 
action.
    Our response: We have complied with the requirements of NEPA for 
this critical habitat designation for lynx. An EIS is required only in 
instances where a proposed Federal action is expected to have a 
significant impact on the human environment. We prepared a draft EA and 
a DEA of the effects of the proposed designation to determine whether 
designation of critical habitat would have significant impacts. A 
notice of availability for public review of the draft EA and DEA was 
published on October 21, 2008 (73 FR 62450). The draft documents have 
been available since that date on our Web site and by request from the 
Service's Montana Field Office. We accepted public comment for 30 days 
after the posting. Following consideration of public comments, we 
prepared a final EA and determination that critical habitat designation 
does not constitute a major Federal action having a significant impact 
on the human environment. That determination is documented in our 
Finding of No Significant Impact (FONSI). Both the final EA and FONSI 
are available on our Web site (see ADDRESSES section of this rule).
    The EA was prepared for this rule to identify alternatives, 
identify and analyze significant issues, and determine whether 
additional analysis was required in an EIS. Two alternatives were 
considered in the EA: the No Action (Baseline) Alternative and the 
Proposed Action. Two other alternatives were considered but not brought 
forward for analysis. The two alternatives not considered further were: 
(1) Critical habitat designation of all areas within the geographic 
range of the lynx in the contiguous United States, and (2) designation 
of all recovery areas (including core areas) as described in the lynx 
recovery outline. These alternatives were not carried forward because 
the Act specifies that, except in circumstances determined by the 
Secretary, critical habitat shall not include the entire geographic 
area that can be occupied by the species, and the recovery outline was 
not analyzed as an alternative because it did not meet the criteria for 
critical habitat defined in the proposed rule. For example, the 
recovery outline identified the Kettle range in Washington State as a 
core area, but the area has no recent, verified evidence of the 
presence of a breeding lynx population, and does not meet the criteria 
as defined in the proposed rule. We developed the proposed alternative 
using the best available scientific information to reflect the 
biological concepts considered important in the recovery outline, and 
included identified core areas that have verified records of long-term 
lynx occupation and reproduction.
    The designation of critical habitat itself is not a recovery 
action, but identifies geographic areas that have the primary 
biological and physical elements necessary for conservation of lynx and 
that may require special management. We recognize that designation of 
critical habitat may not include all of the habitat area that may 
eventually be determined to be necessary for the recovery of a species. 
Critical habitat designations made on the basis of the best available 
information will not control the direction and substance of future 
recovery plans or planning efforts.
    (12) Comment: We received a request to clarify that reservoir water 
bodies are not included in the critical habitat designation.
    Our response: The clarification that reservoirs are not included in 
the designation has been included in the final rule.
    (13) Comment: Several commenters recommended that we work with 
Canada to limit trapping in Canada to conserve lynx and preclude the 
need for critical habitat designation.
    Our response: We agree that, where applicable, international 
cooperation on conservation issues is important. Lynx, as listed in the 
contiguous United States, are considered a unique conservation entity. 
At this time, the lynx is not listed as an endangered or threatened 
species in Canada. Lynx are harvested in Canada, and managed under 
local and provincial game laws that include quotas determined by the 
population status. At the time of listing in 2000, a lack or inadequacy 
of regulatory mechanisms and habitat alteration were considered the 
primary risks to the persistence of lynx in the contiguous United 
States. Overutilization by trapping and hunting was not considered a 
major threat to the species (65 FR 16078), and limiting trapping would 
not preclude the need to designate critical habitat.
    (14) Comment: According to the Maine Department of Inland Fisheries 
and Wildlife, the Maine Unit was defined using many unverified records. 
Some lynx locational information given to the Service by the Department 
did not meet the accepted verification criteria as stated in the 
proposed critical habitat rule (page 10870). The critical habitat 
designation in Maine would be smaller if only verified records were 
used.
    Our response: As we explained on pages 10869-10870 of the proposed 
rule (73 FR 10860, February 28, 2008), we used snow track records to 
determine the area occupied by lynx in Maine, which are considered 
unverified records, in addition to other types of verified records, 
because of the stringent protocols used in confirming the tracks as 
lynx and the minimal number of species in Maine with which lynx tracks 
could be misidentified (McCollough 2006).
    (15) Comment: Some commenters thought that the Lynx Conservation 
Assessment and Strategy (LCAS) (Ruediger et al. 2000), Northern Rockies 
Lynx Management Direction, and the Southern Rockies Lynx Management 
Direction are inadequate as conservation tools and therefore should not 
be used as a justification to exclude these areas from the designation. 
Specifically, the LCAS does not provide for landscape continuity.
    Our response: Lands covered by the LCAS are not being excluded from 
critical habitat designation. The LCAS (Reudiger et al. 2000) assists 
Federal agencies in planning activities and projects in ways that 
benefit lynx or avoid adverse impacts to lynx and lynx habitat. 
Conservation agreements between the Service and the USFS and BLM commit 
the land management agencies to using the LCAS in determining the 
effects of actions on lynx until Management Plans are amended or 
revised to adequately conserve lynx. At the time it was written, the 
LCAS provided the highest level of management and protection for lynx. 
Since the LCAS was written, new information has become available and 
research continues that should be taken into account by land managers. 
Some of this new information was taken into account by the USFS in 
revising plans under programmatic plan amendments (Northern and 
Southern Rocky Mountain Lynx Amendments). All National Forests in the 
critical habitat designation, except the Okanogan-Wenatchee in 
Washington State,

[[Page 8626]]

amended their LRMPs to include the newer lynx direction. The amendment 
process for the Okanogan-Wenatchee is under way. We analyzed the 
amendment actions and determined that the management under them would 
provide for the recovery of lynx in the geographic areas covered (USFWS 
2007, entire).
    The identified National Forest lands in the final rule were found 
to have the essential features for lynx. The essential features, on 
lands covered by management programs or plans that have been revised or 
amended to adopt the LCAS, do require special management or protection, 
and therefore meet the definition of critical habitat pursuant to 
section 3(5)(A) of the Act. In addition, the consultation provisions 
under section 7(a) of the Act constitute the regulatory benefits of 
critical habitat. Federal agencies must consult with the Service on 
discretionary actions that may affect a listed species, and, in 
addition, analyze the effects of an action to critical habitat. The 
analysis of the effects to critical habitat is a separate and different 
analysis from that of the effects to the species, and considers the 
effects of an action on the larger landscape scale of the critical 
habitat unit as a whole.
    (16) Comment: Some commenters indicated that the proposal is based 
on past survey results and not on biological or ecological principles. 
In addition, some indicated that past records of lynx presence are 
insufficient in identifying occupied areas, and that lynx survey 
results are inconsistent from State to State and from agency to agency.
    Our response: As required by section 4(b)(2) of the Act, we base 
our critical habitat designations on the best scientific data 
available. Our criteria for determining the areas occupied by lynx are 
described in the ``Criteria Used To Identify Critical Habitat'' section 
on pages 10869-10870 of the proposed rule. We used available data 
providing verified evidence of the occurrence of lynx and evidence of 
the presence of breeding lynx populations as represented by records of 
lynx reproduction. We find that evidence of breeding populations is the 
best way to verify that the PCEs are present in sufficient quantity and 
spatial configuration to meet the needs of the species, and qualify as 
critical habitat. We focused on records since 1995 to ensure that the 
critical habitat designation is based on the data that most closely 
represents the current status of lynx in the contiguous United States 
and the geographic area occupied by the species. We restricted the 
available lynx occurrence dataset by accepting only verified recent 
lynx records, because we wanted reliable data for the purposes of 
evaluating areas and features for critical habitat designation. As 
described in our response to Comment 14, above, in Maine we also 
accepted unverified records in the form of snow tracks because of the 
stringent protocols used in confirming the tracks as lynx and the 
minimal number of species from which lynx tracks could be misidentified 
in Maine.
    (17) Comment: We received comments requesting clarification of the 
criteria used for determining a ``self-sustaining population'' in the 
proposed rule, and why definitions for ``self-sustaining populations'' 
differ from our Environmental Assessment for the rule and other Federal 
agency conservation strategies such as the LCAS and National Forest 
Plans.
    Our response: Our use of the term ``self-sustaining population'' in 
the proposed rule relates to populations that are able to maintain a 
stable or naturally oscillating population structure composed of 
breeding individuals derived from wild mating and births (rather than 
introduced animals). A population that has demonstrated robustness to 
natural fluctuations in prey abundance is a key to determining that it 
is established. Our use of the term ``self-sustaining'' may differ from 
other agencies' use due to the different objectives for conservation 
strategies. The draft environmental assessment contained a section on 
Criteria for Defining Essential Habitat that deferred to the proposed 
critical habitat rule; a definition of ``self-sustaining'' or 
``occupied'' was not provided in that document. The objective of the 
LCAS is to achieve conservation of the species on USFS lands while 
maintaining other uses of forest lands important to the mission of the 
USFS. The objective of critical habitat is to identify the habitat that 
is occupied by the species or essential to its conservation, that 
contains the physical and biological features essential to the species, 
and that may require special management considerations or protection.
    (18) Comment: Some commenters thought that private or State lands 
should be included or excluded based on conservation and management 
agreements.
    Our response: We determined that the benefit of excluding State 
lands in Washington that are managed under the Washington Department of 
Natural Resource's (DNR) Lynx Habitat Management Plan and lands in 
Maine that are enrolled under the Healthy Forest Reserve Program (HFRP) 
outweighs the benefit of designating them as critical habitat, as 
allowed under section 4(b)(2) of the Act. As we describe in detail in 
the Exclusions Under section 4(b)(2) section of this rule, the 
Washington DNR Lynx Habitat Management Plan and the HFRP in Maine 
provide certainty that the physical and biological features essential 
to the conservation of lynx will be conserved. These programs are in 
place, funding has been committed, and the specific intent of both 
programs is the conservation and management of lynx; as a result we 
have a high degree of certainty that both programs will be implemented 
and that they will be effective in conserving lynx habitat.
    We are not excluding any other areas from the designation except 
Tribal lands, which we are excluding pursuant to Secretarial Order 
Number 3206, as described in the proposed rule. We have determined that 
no other lands will be excluded. We considered exclusions for 
industrial forest lands in Maine and Montana included in draft 
conservation agreements, lands owned by Plum Creek Timber Company in 
Maine and Montana, and private and county lands in Minnesota. We value 
the partnerships we have with these various landowners, and recognize 
that their cooperation will be necessary to achieve recovery of the 
lynx. We are not excluding these lands due to the lack of certainty 
that the plans would effectively conserve the physical and biological 
features essential to lynx. Additionally, a possibility exists that 
section 7(a)(2) consultation on a future project having a Federal nexus 
on any of these lands might result in a determination that an action 
would result in the destruction or adverse modification of lynx 
critical habitat.
    We are not excluding Montana Department of Natural Resources and 
Conservation lands in Montana that are under a draft Habitat 
Conservation Plan for lynx and other listed species, nor are we 
excluding Plum Creek lands in Maine that are part of the proposed 
Moosehead Lake Concept Plan, because both of these efforts are still in 
development and there is a lack of certainty that either effort will be 
completed. However, we recognize the extensive planning and development 
that have already been invested in both of these efforts to achieve 
conservation of lynx and other species.
    (19) Comment: Linkage corridors are important to protect.
    Our response: We agree that providing protection for travel and 
dispersal are important for maintaining lynx populations over time. 
Critical habitat is

[[Page 8627]]

designated for the conservation of the primary constituent element 
(PCE) essential to the conservation of the lynx and necessary to 
support lynx life history functions. The PCE comprises the essential 
features of the boreal forest types that provide, for example, prey, 
reproduction and denning habitat, and snow conditions that give lynx 
their competitive advantage. Critical habitat provides habitat 
connectivity for travel within home ranges, and exploratory movements 
and dispersal within critical habitat units.
    Critical habitat in the final rule was delineated to encompass 
occupied areas with verified reproduction and containing features 
essential to the conservation of the lynx to provide connectivity 
within the particular regional unit and to maintain direct connectivity 
with lynx populations in Canada. Lynx populations in the contiguous 
United States are influenced by lynx population dynamics in Canada, and 
many of these populations in Canada are directly interconnected with 
U.S. populations; therefore, retaining connectivity with the larger 
lynx population in Canada is important to ensuring long-term 
persistence of lynx populations in the United States.
    (20) Comment. At a public meeting for the lynx critical habitat in 
Spokane, the Service stated that the actual ``core'' for lynx is in 
Canada. This contravenes our proposal that there are at least five 
``critical'' or ``core'' areas in the northern United States.
    Our response: The bulk of the lynx population is in Canada, which 
can be considered the ``core'' of its range. However, in the lynx 
recovery outline (Service 2005), we use the term ``core'' to define the 
areas with the strongest long-term evidence of the persistence of lynx 
populations in the contiguous United States. The recovery outline, 
however, was not meant to address critical habitat designation and did 
not identify the primary constituent element for lynx that require 
special management. For the purposes of critical habitat designation, 
we refrained from using the term ``core areas'' to avoid confusion with 
the definitions used in the recovery outline (see the Relationship to 
Recovery Outline section). In the Criteria Used to Identify Critical 
Habitat section of the final rule, we clarified how the areas proposed 
were determined. We referred to the recovery outline to identify the 
different geographic areas important to the persistence of reproducing 
populations of lynx in the contiguous United States. We then focused 
our strategy on boreal forest landscapes of sufficient size to 
encompass the temporal and spatial changes in habitat and snowshoe hare 
populations to support interbreeding lynx populations or 
metapopulations over time. We also considered the need for connectivity 
among habitat patches within a geographical area, and connectivity with 
the larger, more robust Canadian lynx populations. Based on the defined 
criteria for critical habitat, the units roughly coincide with five of 
the six ``core'' areas identified in the recovery outline.
    (21) Comment: Plum Creek Timber Company requested that their 
properties in Montana and Maine be excluded from the designation based 
on multiple legal and policy grounds, including: (1) Landowner 
conservation agreements that Plum Creek is party to provide habitat 
protections beyond what would be achieved by critical habitat 
designation; (2) economic impacts to Plum Creek warrant exclusion under 
Section 4(b)(2) of the Act; and (3) technical and legal reasons, such 
as that some of the Plum Creek lands in the designation are not lynx 
habitat or do not exhibit the primary constituent element (PCE), and 
therefore were erroneously included in the proposed rule.
    Our response: We respond to Plum Creek's comments in a number of 
different places in this rule. We analyzed the benefits of exclusion 
and inclusion of Plum Creek lands based on their proposed participation 
in private lands draft agreements (Maine Forest Products Council and 
Montana Partnership) in the Exclusions under Section 4(b)(2) of the Act 
section of this rule. We determined that the benefits of exclusion do 
not outweigh the benefits of inclusion of Plum Creek lands, and that 
the lands should remain in the critical habitat designation. Our 
economic analysis found no basis for excluding Plum Creek lands due to 
economic factors, including impacts associated with development at 
Moosehead Lake in Maine. Little economic impact, to Plum Creek and 
other private landowners, would exist due to the designation of 
critical habitat. Significant economic impacts to Plum Creek existed 
due to the listing of lynx; however these impacts would occur 
regardless of critical habitat designation. Our specific responses to 
Plum Creek's comments on our economic analysis can be found in comments 
14, 15, 20, 21, and 32 below.
    We also evaluated Plum Creek's request to exclude lands based on 
its willingness to develop a habitat conservation plan for its proposed 
Moosehead Lake development. We acknowledge that Plum Creek has 
experience creating and implementing conservation plans, but this 
experience does not justify an exclusion where the State of Maine's re-
zoning has yet to be completed and no specific subdivision or 
development plans have been submitted to us for review. Given that the 
development of a habitat conservation plan and an incidental take 
permit has not been completed, we cannot rely on it as a basis for 
exclusion. Finally, we note that Plum Creek, like others who have 
requested exclusions, participates in forest certification programs, 
such as Sustainable Forestry Initiative (SFI). Although participation 
tends to demonstrate a commitment to resource stewardship, we were not 
provided with required endangered species or lynx management plans for 
review. Therefore, we were unable to determine, with reasonable 
certainty or specificity, the degree to which land management practices 
currently being employed benefit the lynx or its habitat.
    Plum Creek asserts that some of their land does not contain the PCE 
for lynx, does not qualify for critical habitat protection, and has 
been erroneously included in the critical habitat designation. Plum 
Creek specifically mentioned the Olney Block, a property in 
northwestern Montana, as having too little lynx habitat to be 
considered essential to the species. Plum Creek has real estate 
development plans for this area and fears that designation would have a 
negative impact on their plans. In considering the suitability of the 
Olney Block property, we referred to our criteria for identifying the 
PCE for lynx. Boreal forest habitats are the landscapes characterizing 
PCE for lynx. Individual areas within a boreal forest system may 
contain one or more of the following:
    (a) Presence of snowshoe hares and their preferred habitat 
conditions, which include dense understories of young trees, shrubs or 
overhanging boughs that protrude above the snow, and mature 
multistoried stands with conifer boughs touching the snow surface;
    (b) Winter snow conditions that are generally deep and fluffy for 
extended periods of time;
    (c) Sites for denning that have abundant coarse woody debris, such 
as downed trees and root wads; and
    (d) Matrix habitat (e.g., hardwood forest, dry forest, non-forest, 
or other habitat types that do not support snowshoe hares) that occurs 
between patches of boreal forest in close juxtaposition (at the scale 
of a lynx home range) such that lynx are likely to travel through such 
habitat while accessing patches of boreal forest within a home range.

[[Page 8628]]

    Lynx are a species that uses habitat at a landscape scale, relying 
on a landscape of interconnected habitats to travel long distances. For 
example, lynx home ranges often encompass well over 100 square 
kilometers (39 square miles). Within this home range, lynx may have to 
traverse between multiple patches of habitat that provide suitable prey 
density and denning areas. An individual may have to cross ``matrix'' 
habitats that do not provide foraging or denning opportunities, which 
is why, in the critical habitat designation, we consider matrix habitat 
to be essential to lynx. Matrix habitat holds a potential lynx home 
range together. Lynx occupancy of an area cannot be achieved without 
the potential for the establishment of a home range.
    In Plum Creek's habitat analysis, they assert that the Olney Block 
and other areas do not contain a high enough percentage of ``lynx 
habitat'' to be considered essential (they do not define lynx habitat 
in a way that would allow us to determine if they are using our 
definition of occupied habitat). Plum Creek did not assess how the 
habitat within the Olney Block interacts with habitat outside of the 
parcel on adjacent State land to provide for the potential for lynx 
occupancy. We characterize habitat within the Olney Block, that does 
not provide high prey densities or denning habitat, as matrix, and 
consider it essential to the conservation of lynx that live there, 
because it provides connectivity of foraging and denning habitat across 
a large area. Therefore, we are including Plum Creek lands in the final 
designation.

Economic Issues and Responses

General Comments on Methodology and Scope

    (1) Comment: One commenter expressed concern regarding the validity 
of the DEA because its conclusions are inconsistent with the August 
2006 DEA of Critical Habitat Designation for the Canada Lynx. A comment 
highlighted that, while the 2006 DEA estimates impacts of $175 million 
to $889 million, the 2008 DEA quantifies impacts of only $2.82 million 
for just the administrative costs of section 7 consultation. Because 
impacts are significantly greater in the 2006 analysis, the commenters 
assert that the 2008 analysis understates economic impacts.
    Our response: The 2006 DEA quantified present value impacts of 
$99.5 million to $259 million in areas proposed for critical habitat 
designation, applying a 7 percent discount rate; the $175 million to 
$889 million estimate refers to undiscounted impacts and is therefore 
not directly comparable to the present value impacts in the 2008 DEA. 
There are several reasons why the values in the 2006 and 2008 analyses 
differ. First, the impact estimates being compared across the reports 
in this comment are associated with differing scopes of lynx 
conservation efforts. The 2006 DEA aggregated and presented the 
estimated impacts of all future impacts of lynx conservation, including 
both listing and critical habitat related conservation, as 
``coextensive'' impacts. Coextensive impacts of $99.5 million to $259 
million in the 2006 analysis also included impacts associated with 
overlapping protective measures of other Federal, State, and local laws 
that aid habitat conservation. The 2008 DEA separately measures: (a) 
The baseline (without critical habitat) impacts of lynx conservation; 
and (b) the incremental impacts specifically associated with the 
critical habitat designation. The present value incremental impacts 
expected to result solely from the critical habitat designation are 
estimated to be approximately $1.49 million and are associated with 
administrative effort for section 7 consultations. All other lynx 
conservation impacts are estimated to occur regardless of critical 
habitat designation. The commenter's description of estimated 
administrative consultation costs in the 2008 DEA of $2.82 million is 
incorrect; that estimate does not appear in the 2008 DEA. Other 
differences between the 2006 and 2008 DEA are described in Chapter 1, 
on pages 1-1 through 1-3, of the 2008 analysis.
    (2) Comment: One commenter expressed concern about the potential 
for critical habitat to increase delays on the processing and 
environmental review of Federal permits: for example, projects that 
require a 404 permit under the Clean Water Act.
    Our response: Section 2.3.2 of the DEA describes the potential for 
critical habitat designation to result in time delays for permit 
applications. In the case that critical habitat triggers a delay, it 
would be considered an incremental impact of the critical habitat 
designation. The DEA does not, however, forecast that this will be an 
outcome of the critical habitat designation. To the extent that the 
presence of critical habitat does result in time delays for projects, 
the DEA understates the incremental impacts of the critical habitat 
designation.
    (3) Comment: Multiple comments provided on the DEA stated that it 
acknowledges the potential for the designation to have indirect 
effects, such as the enforcement of State and local laws, but fails to 
quantify the associated costs. One commenter stated that, because the 
DEA does not quantify such indirect costs, the conservation benefits of 
these indirect regulatory methods should not be used in the analysis of 
the overall benefit of critical habitat designation. One commenter 
asserted that a critical habitat designation can increase attention and 
concern regarding potential environmental impacts of a project and may 
lead other permitting agencies to examine a proposal more carefully and 
take restrictive action that they otherwise would not. Another 
commenter stated that the DEA acknowledges the potential for a 
``stigma'' effect but does not quantify associated impacts, which would 
have a greater impact on private landowners than the direct effects.
    Our response: Section 2.3.2 notes that, in some cases, a critical 
habitat designation may trigger lynx conservation under other State or 
local laws. The section goes on, however, to describe that no State or 
local laws were identified in the study area for which critical habitat 
would trigger additional compliance. As described in Sections 5.1 and 
5.5, planning departments in counties containing critical habitat were 
surveyed to assess whether the designation would affect permitting of 
development activities. Section 2.3.2 also recognizes that, in some 
cases, public perception of critical habitat designation may result in 
limitations of private property uses above and beyond those associated 
with anticipated project modifications and uncertainty related to 
regulatory actions. Public attitudes regarding the limits or 
restrictions of critical habitat can cause real economic effects to 
property owners, regardless of whether such limits are actually 
imposed. To the extent that potential stigma effects on real estate 
markets are probable and identifiable, these impacts are considered 
indirect, incremental impacts of the designation. It is unknown, 
however, whether lynx critical habitat will result in long-term stigma 
effects to property owners; as the public becomes aware of the true 
regulatory effect imposed by critical habitat, any impact of the 
designation on property values would be expected to decrease.
    (4) Comment: One commenter stated that assumptions about future 
behavior based on past performance in the DEA are not accurate. The 
commenter suggests that a small sampling of private property owners to 
explore their aspirations for future land use would provide a reality 
check to the

[[Page 8629]]

assumptions made in the economic analysis.
    Our response: The DEA does not rely solely on historic trends to 
forecast future behavior of landowners. Private landowners were 
contacted to discuss their ongoing and forecast land management; a list 
of private landowners that provided information to inform the analysis 
is included in the References section of the DEA.
    (5) Comment: One commenter stated that the DEA describes 36 percent 
of the proposed critical habitat in Koochiching County, Minnesota, as 
being of unknown ownership. The commenter notes that, according to the 
Koochiching County Assessor, there is no land within the county of 
unknown ownership. Another commenter stated that the DEA identifies 
over 1 million acres of third-party-certified county-tax-forfeit forest 
land as being of unknown ownership in northeast Minnesota. The 
commenter asserts that the designation of critical habitat without 
first understanding the economic impacts of such a designation should 
not be allowed.
    Our response: As described in the landowner type categories of 
Exhibit 1-2 of the DEA, no land is categorized as being of unknown 
ownership. Exhibit 5-2 misleadingly included a category ``area under 
unknown ownership.'' This label is corrected in the final rule to 
clarify that these lands are considered as being under private 
ownership, although the specific landowners are not identified. 
Regarding the tax forfeit land in northeast Minnesota, Exhibit 1-2 
identifies 753,327 acres of land identified as ``Local Public 
Ownership.'' These are tax-forfeit public lands owned by the State and 
managed at the county level. A significant portion of these lands are 
managed for timber and are analyzed as such in the DEA.
    (6) Comment: One commenter stated that the DEA ignores that private 
land rights are eroding through partial regulatory takings and assumes 
that there is no risk that regulatory infrastructure will be used to 
further diminish private land values.
    Our response: The DEA considers the extent to which lynx 
conservation may affect private land values. Chapter 5 of the DEA 
describes impacts to private land values associated with avoiding or 
minimizing impacts to the lynx and its habitat of proposed development 
projects. Specifically, as described in Section 5.5, the analysis 
assumes that where development is limited for the purposes of lynx 
conservation, a portion of the value of the parcel associated with its 
potential for future development is lost. As noted in the DEA, however, 
only one forecast project was identified (the Moosehead Lake Land Use 
Concept Plan in Maine) for which information on both the scope and 
scale of the development and on potential lynx conservation 
recommendations were available to forecast impacts on land values.
    (7) Comment: According to one commenter, the DEA assumes that the 
only costs imposed on private landowners by critical habitat 
designation result from administrative effort in conducting section 7 
consultation. This assumption ignores future costs for lynx management 
activities resulting from section 7 consultation. Further, the DEA 
quantifies costs of lynx management activities already under way and 
assumes that these plans will be models for conservation efforts in the 
remaining proposed habitat. The analysis does not, however, quantify 
costs of implementing these management plans on the 40 percent of 
habitat that is not covered by existing plans.
    Our response: As described on page ES-2, the DEA quantifies only 
administrative costs associated with section 7 consultation as 
incremental impacts of the critical habitat designation. While future 
consultations are forecast to result in project modifications across 
the land use activities considered in the report, these project 
modifications are expected to occur regardless of the critical habitat 
designation. The Service has not described additional project 
modifications that may be solely attributable to the designation of 
critical habitat. With regard to the 40 percent of lands not covered by 
existing lynx management plans, the DEA does not consider it reasonably 
foreseeable that all landowners across the areas proposed for critical 
habitat will adopt lynx management plans following a designation of 
critical habitat. As described in Chapter 4, the analysis considers 
where lynx management plans may be applied in the future. Specifically, 
Section 4.3.3 highlights the potential conservation efforts of future 
lynx management guidelines for private lands in Maine. These potential 
guidelines differ significantly from the conservation efforts described 
in existing lynx management plans (e.g., the LCAS and NRLMD), 
evidencing that these private lands would not necessarily apply 
existing lynx management plans.
    (8) Comment: A commenter stated that the DEA described ancillary 
benefits of lynx critical habitat that are considered to the extent 
they result in observable impacts on markets. However, the analysis 
does not quantify these impacts. For example, while reduced economic 
welfare to snowmobilers associated with increased crowding on trails is 
quantified as a cost, the analysis doesn't quantify welfare gains to 
participants in non-motorized recreation associated with reduced noise 
and air pollution.
    Our response: Section 6.2 considers welfare impacts associated with 
restrictions on snow mobile trail expansions. Scenario 2 of this 
analysis assumes that limiting future trail expansions increases 
crowding on existing trails resulting in decreased utility per 
snowmobile trip. As such, the analysis does not assume there is a net 
decrease in snowmobiling but a change in the distribution of the 
occurrence of snowmobiling. As a result, while some participants 
engaged in non-motorized recreation in some areas may experience 
welfare gains (i.e., areas where trails are precluded), others may 
experience welfare losses (areas in which the existing trails are more 
crowded). Further, data regarding the distribution of non-motorized 
recreators in these areas were not available.
    (9) Comment: One comment from the Confederated Salish and Kootenai 
Tribes of the Flathead Nation stated that the DEA lacked specific 
information for areas proposed for exclusion from the critical habitat 
designation.
    Our response: The DEA separates any costs anticipated to occur on 
areas proposed for exclusion from critical habitat designation. 
Sections 4.4, 4.5, and 8.5 quantify the pre- and post-designation 
administrative costs of section 7 consultations on these lands proposed 
for exclusion, and Section 4.4 quantifies the post-designation baseline 
impacts to the Passamaquoddy Tribe related to their involvement in the 
Maine Healthy Forest Reserve Program (Unit 1).

Comments on Timber Issues

    (10) Comment: One commenter stated that the DEA predicts 142 lost 
jobs due to restrictions on pre-commercial thinning from the 
designation of critical habitat for the lynx. The comment asserts that 
this estimate fails to take into account the ancillary employment that 
will be lost in related markets, such as housing, sawmills, and local 
retail.
    Our response: As described in Section 4.4.1, the analysis employs a 
regional economic modeling tool, IMPLAN, to estimate the number of jobs 
lost in the regional economy due to reduced pre-commercial thinning 
levels. IMPLAN translates the lost revenues associated with reduced 
pre-commercial thinning levels into changes in demand for goods and 
services in related economic sectors

[[Page 8630]]

in the regional economy. Thus, the estimated 142 lost jobs in proposed 
critical habitat unit 4 (presented in Exhibit 4-10) represents the 
effect of reduced pre-commercial thinning on the regional economy and 
not just pre-commercial thinning jobs. Additionally, reductions in pre-
commercial thinning levels are baseline lynx conservation efforts; no 
further reductions in pre-commercial thinning levels are estimated to 
occur due to the designation of critical habitat for the lynx.
    (11) Comment: Two commenters questioned why the Washington 
Department of Natural Resources (WDNR) foregone revenue impacts are 
high relative to those of other timber managers. Out of the $13.5 
million in foregone timber revenue estimated in the DEA, $11.3 million 
is associated with WDNR, although it covers a relatively small portion 
of the critical habitat area. Further, logging is precluded on a 
considerable portion of the WDNR lands, because the timber rights were 
purchased for conservation. The commenter questions whether non-lynx-
related logging restrictions on the WDNR lands, such as stream buffers, 
HCPs, and a log import ban, were included in the foregone revenue 
estimates.
    Our response: Economic impacts associated with public land were 
based on communication with the landowners regarding the specific 
conservation efforts they are applying and the resulting economic 
implications. Post-designation baseline impacts specifically associated 
with WDNR lands are described in Section 4.5.2 of the analysis. 
According to the WDNR, lynx conservation efforts on their land in 
proposed critical habitat resulted in removing land from active timber 
management. Specifically, 30 percent of the approximately 105,000 acres 
of WDNR land in proposed critical habitat is removed from active timber 
management, resulting in economic impacts of $1.06 million annually. 
While other public landowners implementing lynx management plans have 
employed lynx conservation efforts, such as restricting pre-commercial 
thinning, they have not removed land completely from timber production 
for the purposes of lynx conservation. As a result, the economic 
impacts of lynx conservation on WDNR lands are greater than on other 
lands implementing lynx management plans.
    (12) Comment: F.H. Stoltze Land and Lumber commented that it 
provided information on the potential indirect and direct impacts of 
critical habitat designation on their lands in previous comment periods 
but none of that information was used in the DEA.
    Our response: The potential direct and indirect impacts of critical 
habitat designation provided by F.H. Stoltze Land and Lumber Company 
(Stoltze) during the public comment period for the proposed rule are 
summarized in subsection 4.3.6 of the DEA. The section further 
describes that Stoltze's assumptions regarding how the Service may 
regulate their lands for the purposes of lynx conservation are not 
consistent with the assumptions made in the DEA. First, Stoltze 
quantifies the impacts of the enforcement of lynx conservation on their 
lands similar to that described in the Lynx Conservation Assessment and 
Strategy (LCAS). There is no precedent for the Service to request these 
types of lynx conservation efforts on private lands, nor has the 
Service indicated it intends to do so in the future. Second, ongoing 
negotiations regarding lynx management guidelines between the Service 
and private timber landowners indicates that lynx conservation 
guidelines for private landowners may differ significantly from the 
LCAS (see Section 4.3.3 of the analysis which describes the Service's 
recommendations with respect to lynx management guidelines on private 
timberland in Maine). Further, Stoltze assumes the Service may regulate 
their land management via section 7 consultation regarding 404 permits 
or fire hazard mitigation projects in critical habitat. To date, no 
consultations have taken place regarding these activities. All section 
7 consultations on private timberlands in Unit 4 have been for special 
use permits and none has required any lynx conservation efforts or 
denied access to private lands. The Service has not indicated that this 
is expected to change following a critical habitat designation of these 
lands.
    (13) Comment: One commenter asserted that the DEA does not consider 
that private forestland owners will be forced to seek alternative uses, 
Federal lands will lose valuable management tools, and Montana will 
lose its forest products infrastructure to lynx habitat.
    Our response: The assertion that private timberland owners may have 
to seek alternate land uses due to lynx conservation is predicated on 
the assumption that these landowners would be required to implement 
conservation efforts for the lynx similar to those specified in the 
LCAS. For the reasons described in Section 4.3.6, the DEA does not 
assume this is a reasonably foreseeable assumption. The DEA does, 
however, consider the economic impacts of restricting the pre-
commercial thinning management tool on Federal lands, where section 7 
consultation requirements apply, in subsection 4.4.1, and the effect on 
the regional forest products industries.
    (14) Comment: A comment from Plum Creek provided information on the 
costs of its ongoing and forecasted lynx conservation efforts. In the 
baseline, Plum Creek stated that absent critical habitat designation 
they expect to continue to conduct experimental pre-commercial thinning 
on approximately 200 ac (81 ha) per year at a present value cost of 
$230,000 (assuming an internal rate of return of 8 percent and a 15 
percent discount rate). The company also intends to continue to 
contribute to research in Maine and Montana for lynx and snowshoe hare 
whether or not critical habitat is designated, at a cost of $150,000 
($10,000 per year discounted at 3 percent). Plum Creek further expects 
to implement mitigation measures for road construction at a cost of 
between $110,000 and $250,000 per year absent critical habitat. In 
addition, slower speed limits are expected to result in social welfare 
impacts to motorists. The commenter noted that not enough information 
is available, however, to quantify these costs.
    Our response: While Section 4.3.6 of the DEA summarized Plum 
Creek's 2006 economic impacts estimates, impact estimates provided in 
their comment on the October 2008 DEA are different. As a result, these 
baseline impacts as estimated by Plum Creek are new information on 
their baseline lynx conservation efforts and are provided in the final 
economic analysis. The impacts described by Plum Creek are not entirely 
additive with the baseline impacts as quantified in the DEA. The DEA 
does include impacts associated with private landowner funding of lynx-
related research in the baseline. The analysis does not, however, break 
out the fraction of those costs borne specifically by Plum Creek. 
Because of this, and because Plum Creek's estimated impacts are not 
broken down by their land ownership in Maine and Montana, the final 
economic analysis provides this information to decision makers but does 
not update its estimate of baseline impact. This comment does not, 
however, change the estimated incremental economic impacts associated 
with the critical habitat designation.
    (15) Comment: Plum Creek further commented that the Montana and 
Maine Lynx Agreements would only be implemented on private lands in the 
absence of critical habitat designation. The implementation of these 
plans would cost approximately $230,000 for

[[Page 8631]]

distributing information, hosting annual workshops, and supporting lynx 
research and monitoring. The associated benefits to the lynx of 
implementing these plans would be lost in the case that critical 
habitat is designated on these lands and should therefore be considered 
incremental costs of the critical habitat designation.
    Our response: As private landowners have funded lynx conservation 
research in the past, the DEA includes impacts of this continued 
funding as baseline impacts of lynx conservation. In the case that the 
critical habitat designation results in private landowners ceasing to 
fund lynx-related research, baseline impacts are overestimated in the 
DEA and any benefits associated with these investments in lynx-related 
research would be foregone. Information is not available, however, to 
describe benefits or improvements in lynx conservation resulting 
specifically from the investments of these private landowners in lynx-
related research.

Comments on Development Analysis

    (16) Comment: A comment on the DEA stated that the value of private 
property should not be based on that of similar properties as 
landowners may have differing objectives for their land use. The 
comment further states that the DEA understates or ignores the cost of 
environmental measures on private land ownership.
    Our response: As described in Section 5.3.2, the analysis assumes 
that privately-owned property values within critical habitat include 
silvicultural rents, the growth premium, and the option value for 
future development. Where future development is precluded from a 
parcel, the reduction in land value equals the sum of growth premium 
and option value (i.e., the property value is reduced to its 
silvicultural rents). The associated land values for these properties 
described in the analysis were determined by assessors and consider the 
potential future uses of the property; they are not based on comparison 
to land use decisions on other properties.
    (17) Comment: One commenter stated that the DEA shows a 49 percent 
increase in the building permits from 2000 to 2007 in Koochiching 
County, Minnesota, a county with declining population. The commenter 
asserts that this is an inaccurate portrayal of building activity. In 
fact, before this time, the county was operating an under-funded 
inspection and permitting system. The county hired an additional 
appraiser who instructed owners of existing, un-permitted structures to 
obtain building permits in this time period. Building permits issued in 
this period are therefore not indicative of actual construction 
activity.
    Our response: Correspondence with the Koochiching County Assessor's 
Office has confirmed that two additional appraisers were hired between 
2000 and 2007 and that these hires resulted in an unknown number of 
additional un-permitted structures obtaining permits in 2007. The 2000 
and 2007 building permit figures in Exhibit 5-2 of the DEA may 
therefore not be representative of development activity during those 
years in Koochiching County. In fact, development activity is likely 
less than that described in the analysis. Section 5.5.2 of the final 
economic analysis therefore indicates that development pressure in 
Koochiching County is anticipated to be minimal.
    (18) Comment: According to one comment, the baseline impacts of 
lynx conservation associated with the proposed development at Moosehead 
Lake, Maine, are overestimated as some level of development restriction 
would occur even in the absence of lynx protections, as the DEA notes 
on page ES-3.
    Our response: Section 2.3.1 of the DEA describes the baseline as 
``the existing state of regulation, prior to the designation of 
critical habitat, which provides protection to the species under the 
Act, as well as under other Federal, State and local laws and 
guidelines.'' Regarding the proposed Moosehead project, the analysis 
only quantified impacts of the Service's conservation recommendations 
related to the lynx, although a portion of these may be implemented 
even absent the lynx. Impacts of these conservation efforts are 
appropriately assigned to the baseline in the analysis. Conservation 
associated with the Moosehead project that did not overlap potential 
lynx conservation recommendations is not quantified in the DEA.
    (19) Comment: One commenter stated that the DEA mischaracterizes 
the easements under the 1964 Forest Roads and Trails Act. The commenter 
suggested removing this language, as this information is mistaken and 
not relied upon in the DEA. Specifically, the commenter asserted that 
the analysis describes that the U.S. Department of Agriculture has 
proposed to change language in the 1964 Forest Roads and Trails Act 
broadening the scope of the Act to include road uses for residential 
and commercial development. In fact, they are considering a draft 
amendment to certain easements owned by Plum Creek that would simply 
clarify, not change, the scope of those easements as they already cover 
road use for residential and commercial development. Because there is 
no expansion of access rights, just a clarification, the matter should 
have no economic impacts that affect the DEA.
    Our response: Given this information on the 1964 Forest Roads and 
Trails Act, and the fact that this does not change the assumptions made 
or the estimated economic impact, the language involving the Forest 
Roads and Trails Act is removed in the final economic analysis.
    (20) Comment: One private landowner, Plum Creek, commented that the 
critical habitat is likely to affect development in Maine and Montana. 
In the case that Maine's Land Use Regulatory Commission (LURC) treats 
the critical habitat area as if it were a Fish and Wildlife Protection 
Subdistrict, proposed developments within critical habitat would 
require an additional permit. Furthermore, meeting LURC's burden of 
proof that proposed developments will not harm the natural environment 
may prohibit these developments. Additionally, if Clean Water Act 
section 404 permits are required for development in Maine critical 
habitat areas, development projects may be modified or precluded as a 
result of section 7 consultation. Plum Creek commented that if critical 
habitat is designated, they will likely abandon their Land Use Concept 
Plan at Moosehead Lake (Moosehead Lake Plan). Lands in the Concept Plan 
are valued at $189.6 million to Plum Creek and the conservation 
easements were valued at $469,000 in benefits for the local residents 
and $9.2 million in benefits for Maine residents. In total, public 
benefits of the balance easement were quantified at between $10.8 and 
$19.2 million. These benefits would be foregone in the case that 
critical habitat is designated.
    Our response: As described in Section 5.5.1, the DEA quantifies 
impacts related to two scenarios. At the low end, lynx conservation 
related to the Moosehead Lake Plan in Maine is assumed to follow LURC's 
written recommendations; at the high end, the analysis assumes lynx 
conservation will follow more stringent recommendations provided by the 
Service. The DEA did not consider a scenario in which Plum Creek 
abandons the Moosehead Lake Plan entirely. The final economic analysis 
therefore provides the information regarding potential economic impacts 
of this scenario. While there are costs (foregone benefits) to Plum 
Creek and to the public of abandoning the plan, there may also be an 
economic benefits Plan that offsets the cost estimates presented by 
Plum

[[Page 8632]]

Creek. The alternative use scenario of these lands absent the Moosehead 
Lake Plan is largely uncertain. As a result, it is difficult to predict 
what sorts of economic costs and benefits would be associated with the 
alternative uses of the land. These issues are discussed in greater 
depth in the final economic analysis.
    (21) Comment: Plum Creek commented that designation of critical 
habitat in Montana may prompt local land use agencies to impose minimum 
lot sizes on subdivision developments. According to Plum Creek's 
analysis, requiring that future Plum Creek developments in proposed 
critical habitat have lot sizes greater than 20, 160, and 640 acres 
would result in losses of $0.44 million, $74.2 million, and $243.1 
million, respectively. Plum Creek bases their lot size assumptions on 
existing growth policies for counties in Montana. Specifically, at the 
high end, Missoula County's Seeley Lake Regional Plan identifies lynx 
as a species of concern and recommends a land use density of one 
dwelling per 640 acres.
    Our response: With regard to development in Montana, Section 5.5.3 
of the DEA describes that, although no modifications to development 
projects have occurred in the past to benefit the lynx, it is possible 
that future permitting requirements may become more stringent as a 
result of critical habitat designation. Communication with Montana 
county planners, however, indicated that few are likely to modify their 
minimum lot size requirements in response to critical habitat 
designation. Further, it is unclear whether any minimum lot size 
requirements would be baseline or related to critical habitat. The 
Seely Lake Regional Plan example is an existing (baseline) protection 
and already imposes its minimum lot size. This would therefore not be 
considered an incremental impact of critical habitat designation in the 
DEA. As such, the final economic analysis presents the results of Plum 
Creek's study of impacts to development on their Montana lands, but 
does not include these estimates in the total impacts of the critical 
habitat designation as they are considered too speculative.

Other Comments on the Draft Economic Analysis

    (22) Comment: A comment on the DEA asserted that impacts to 
recreation were underestimated because the analysis did not take into 
consideration that congested trails, resulting from the closure of 29 
miles of trails, may decrease winter tourism and recreation. This will 
increase pressure on local police and hospitals and reduce the amount 
of jobs in the tourism industry.
    Our response: Section 6.2 describes impacts to snowmobiling 
activities due to potential restrictions on trail use and new trail 
construction. The analysis does not state that 29 miles of trail in 
Loomis State Forest within Unit 4 will be closed; only that 29 miles of 
the Washington State's 3,000 to 3,500 miles of snowmobile trails fall 
within the Loomis State Forest. With respect to costs from increased 
snowmobile congestion, under a high-bound estimate, the DEA assumes the 
cost of lost social welfare of $109,000 for Unit 4 due to increased 
trail congestion. These impacts are considered baseline as part of 
Okanogan-Wenatchee National Forest's implementation of the LCAS. In 
addition, though implementing the LCAS will preclude the creation of 
new trails, most snowmobile riding in the Loomis area occurs on 
ungroomed trails.
    (23) Comment: According to one comment, the incremental impact to 
mining activity in Unit 2 of $10,900 is not credible because of the 
size and economic contribution of this industry in this region.
    Our response: The taconite mining industry, and more recently the 
non-ferrous mining industry, has been significant contributors to the 
local and regional economy in northern Minnesota. Lynx-related 
conservation efforts associated with mining activities are assumed to 
occur regardless of critical habitat designation and are therefore 
appropriately assigned to the baseline. That is, incremental impacts 
are low because the critical habitat is not expected to affect mining 
activity beyond the existing level of lynx conservation.
    (24) Comment: According to one comment, the DEA underestimates 
impacts to grazing activities by failing to take into consideration 
that farmers with allotments on public lands may have to either 
decrease the number of cows they graze, or overgraze land adjacent to 
the critical habitat designation. These changes in grazing activity 
would in turn cause job losses in the regional retail and service 
industries.
    Our response: As stated in paragraph 320 of the DEA, we found ``no 
evidence that grazing (is) a factor threatening lynx.'' Section 7 
consultations for grazing activities under the LCAS have resulted in 
few conservation recommendations and no project modifications. 
Paragraph 360 further states that, ``(o)pportunity for grazing has not 
been affected by the implementation of the lynx management plans and 
conservation recommendations made during section 7 consultation.'' 
Therefore, the DEA assumes that, beyond the costs of consultation, 
grazing activities will not be affected by critical habitat.
    (25) Comment: One comment stated that hunting, as an economic 
activity, seems to have been overlooked in the DEA. Road construction 
in wetlands requires consultation and road access is fundamental to the 
economy of Northern Minnesota's recreational hunting industry. The 
commenter further asserted that the value of land as deer hunting 
property seems to have been similarly overlooked.
    Our response: Impacts to hunting and trapping activities are 
included in section 6.4 of the analysis and are primarily costs 
associated with establishing education programs and enforcing trapping 
regulations to avoid incidental take of lynx. The DEA assumes that the 
opportunity to hunt will not be diminished due to critical habitat. 
With respect to road construction in wetland areas and road access in 
northern Minnesota, a section 7 consultation may require modifications 
to a road project (i.e., culverts and other habitat crossing measures), 
however, critical habitat designation will not preclude road access.
    (26) Comment: A comment provided on the DEA stated that the 
analysis does not mention boating as a potentially affected activity 
although Unit 2 contains most of Minnesota's 17,000 lakes of over one 
acre. Construction of boat docks, for example, is likely to trigger a 
section 7 consultation.
    Our response: The Service does not list boating, or construction of 
boat docks, as a threat to the lynx or its habitat in any of its lynx 
management documents, nor has this activity been the subject of 
consultation in the past. There is therefore no indication that this 
activity will be affected by lynx conservation in the future.
    (27) Comment: The Small Business Administration (SBA) commented 
that the Initial Regulatory Flexibility Analysis (IRFA) is inadequate 
to provide a factual basis for certifying that the proposed critical 
habitat designation will not have a significant impact on a substantial 
number of small entities. First, the IRFA does not provide sufficient 
information to adequately forecast costs associated with section 7 
consultations involving small entities. In the case that critical 
habitat is designated, past section 7 consultations initiated by small 
entities to avoid jeopardy must then be re-opened to account for newly 
designated critical

[[Page 8633]]

habitat. Second, the IRFA only considers the administrative costs of 
re-opening past consultations and fails to consider costs small 
entities could face if required to modify projects to avoid adverse 
modification of critical habitat. In addition, the IRFA incorrectly 
assumes that no new section 7 consultations will occur as a result of 
the proposed critical habitat because the critical habitat designation 
only covers areas currently occupied by the species. Finally, the SBA 
stated that the IRFA does not provide any estimates of costs of 
consultations with private landowners under section 10 of the ESA to 
obtain an incidental take permit that may result from critical habitat 
designation. The SBA further stated that the Service must prepare a 
Final Regulatory Flexibility Analysis (FRFA) if it finalizes the 
critical habitat designation for the lynx.
    Our response: The DEA does include costs of project modifications 
associated with forecast section 7 consultations. These project 
modifications are all expected to be recommended regardless of the 
critical habitat and are therefore assigned to the baseline impacts 
quantified in the analysis. Further, the DEA does forecast new 
consultations (not just re-openings) following the designation of 
critical habitat; however, these new consultations are expected to 
occur regardless of whether critical habitat is designated. The lynx 
conservation quantified is expected to occur regardless of the critical 
habitat designation because, as described on page ES-2 of the draft 
economic analysis and in the activity-specific chapters, of the broad 
scope and scale of existing lynx conservation that already occurs 
across the study area even absent critical habitat. First, the Service 
does not expect the conservation direction of existing lynx management 
plans, which cover 60 percent of the proposed critical habitat, to be 
altered following a critical habitat designation. Second, the Service 
has not identified any additional project modifications that it may 
recommend via section 7 consultation following a critical habitat 
designation above and beyond what has been recommended in the past to 
address potential jeopardy issues. As a result, the Service has not 
indicated that any regulatory changes would occur due to critical 
habitat designation. In terms of potential indirect impacts of critical 
habitat designation, the draft economic analysis notes in the Foreword 
(Section 1.1) that significant uncertainty is associated with the 
analysis due to the dynamic nature of land use planning, ongoing 
discussion regarding lynx conservation with private timberland owners, 
and whether particular land use activities are risk factors. As 
described in Appendix A, the IRFA is based on the incremental impacts 
expected to be generated specifically by the designation of critical 
habitat. As a result, the baseline impacts of forecast section 7 
project modifications are not relevant to the IRFA because they are not 
engendered by the critical habitat rulemaking. In addition, critical 
habitat does not necessarily increase the need for section 10 
incidental take permits. In surveying landowners and land managers, the 
economists who wrote the DEA did not identify any basis for assuming 
critical habitat designation would result in landowners developing 
habitat conservation plans, which are typically associated with the 
issuance of section 10(a)(1)(B) incidental take permits. We completed a 
FRFA and it is made available with the final economic analysis 
concurrently with this final rule.
    (28) Comment: Multiple commenters stated that the DEA is unbalanced 
because it focuses almost exclusively on the economic costs of critical 
habitat designation but does not analyze expected benefits. One 
commenter asserted that the protection of critical habitat would likely 
provide broader ecological benefits for myriad other species and 
ecosystem functions. One commenter stated the analysis should consider 
the property value benefits as a result of the creation of open space 
areas. Another commenter stated that the DEA should be considered a 
cost analysis only, because it focuses only on one side of the total 
impacts.
    Our response: Where sufficient information is available, the DEA 
attempts to measure the net economic effects of species conservation 
efforts. The analysis does not attempt to measure net costs of broader 
social benefits that may result incidentally from species conservation. 
The primary purpose of the rulemaking is the potential to contribute to 
the conservation of the lynx. The direct benefits of the rule are 
primarily biological; weighing these benefits to lynx conservation 
against the expected cost impacts is part of the requirement of section 
4(b) of the Act. Therefore, we use cost estimates from the DEA as one 
factor against which biological benefits are compared during the 
section 4(b)(2) weighing process. We are also interested in weighing 
indirect benefits of critical habitat designation, if they can be 
verified (we know they will occur), measured economically, and built 
into a net DEA. However, many potential indirect benefits resulting 
from critical habitat designation cannot be verified or measured 
economically. In future, as economic reports of conservation benefits 
to people and communities are completed, we may be better able to 
analyze this type of data.
    (29) Comment: One commenter requested that the Service consider the 
on-the-ground benefits of the Montana Lynx Conservation Agreement in 
comparison with the benefits of critical habitat designation. The 
commenter asserted that the outreach, education, research, and 
implementation activities proposed under the agreement provide greater 
lynx conservation than any actions achievable by the Service through 
critical habitat designation.
    Our response: We analyzed the benefits of inclusion of lands 
included in the Montana Partnership Conservation Agreement against 
benefits of exclusion (see Exclusions Under Section 4(b)(2) of the Act 
section; Unit 3). We found that these lands should be included in the 
critical habitat designation, mainly because of uncertainty of 
implementation and effectiveness of commitments included in the 
agreement (which is still a draft), and because the agreement provided 
no commitment to implement on-the-ground habitat management of habitat 
for lynx.
    (30) Comment: One commenter stated that the DEA did not consider 
the Southern Rockies habitat area and therefore the Service has not 
fulfilled the requirement to show that the benefits of excluding the 
Southern Rocky Mountains outweigh the benefits of designating habitat 
in the region.
    Our response: The Southern Rockies did not meet our criteria for 
defining critical habitat. The areas we determined to be essential for 
the conservation of lynx (see Criteria Used to Identify Critical 
Habitat section of this rule) contain the physical and biological 
features essential to lynx and have relatively recent (post-1995) 
records and evidence of breeding lynx populations. The Southern Rockies 
were not included in the proposed critical habitat, and therefore, no 
consideration was given to excluding those lands from critical habitat.
    (31) Comment: One commenter stated that the Service has not issued 
any regulations or other binding documents regarding how to approach 
the ESA 4(b)(2) balancing in assessing whether stimulating private 
conservation agreements has greater conservation benefits than 
designating certain private lands as critical habitat.
    Our response: In designating critical habitat, we are bound by the 
Act, and

[[Page 8634]]

regulations at 50 CFR 424.12. We agree that we have not issued new 
regulations regarding how to approach section 4(b)(2) critical habitat 
exclusion analysis. However, we are currently following our February 
12, 2008, Draft Critical Habitat Exclusions Guidance. This guidance was 
developed in response to critical habitat case law, which documents the 
Courts' interpretations of the requirements of the Act. This rule is 
also consistent with the October 3, 2008, opinion from the Solicitor 
titled, ``The Secretary's Authority to Exclude Areas from a Critical 
Habitat Designation under Section 4(b)(2) of the Endangered Species 
Act.''
    (32) Comment: According to one comment, the Service cannot lawfully 
maintain that the designation of critical habitat would not result in 
any incremental economic impacts because recent court decisions, 
Gifford Pinchot Task Force v. FWS (9th Cir. 2004) and Arizona Cattle 
Growers Association v. Kempthorne (D. Az. 2008), and an October 2008 
Solicitor's Opinion, indicate that critical habitat is a more stringent 
ESA Section 7 compliance standard than the jeopardy standard.
    Our response: The DEA weighs the economic effects of critical 
habitat designation separately from effects of listing of the species. 
This separation of effects is termed an ``incremental'' analysis. The 
DEA includes analysis of known effects resulting from critical habitat 
designation, including those related to potential adverse modification 
of critical habitat.

Summary of Changes From Proposed Rule

    We did not propose changes to 50 CFR 17.11(h) in the proposed rule 
because we were not proposing any substantive changes to the entry for 
Canada lynx on the List of Threatened and Endangered Wildlife. However, 
in this final rule, we are revising the entry for Canada lynx at 50 CFR 
17.11(h) to correct some typographical errors; the current entry 
includes Colorado and Idaho twice in the ``Historic Range'' column.
    In preparing the revised final critical habitat designation for the 
lynx, we reviewed and considered comments from the public and peer 
reviewers on the proposed revised designation of critical habitat 
published on February 28, 2008 (73 FR 10860). We published a notice 
announcing the availability of the DEA and draft environmental 
assessment on October 21, 2008 (73 FR 62450). As a result of comments 
received on the proposal, comments received on the DEA, comments 
received on the draft environmental assessment, we made the following 
changes in our final designation:
    (1) We reevaluated the proposed revised critical habitat units 
based on peer review, public comments, and biological information 
received during the public comment period. Collectively, we excluded 
approximately 4,468 km2 (1,725 mi2) of land from 
this revised final critical habitat designation. Table 1 provides 
differences in the amount of area proposed for designation and the 
areas designated in this final rule. We excluded Tribal lands per 
Executive Order 3206 (see Tribal Lands Excluded from Lynx Critical 
Habitat section below), and non-Federal lands with existing, 
implemented, and effective lynx management plans (see Exclusions Under 
Section 4(b)(2) of the Act section below).
    (2) We removed portions of units that did not contain the primary 
constituent element (PCE), and areas where existing development was 
concentrated, from the final designation based on available maps. In 
some areas, unit boundaries were expanded to incorporate adjacent lynx 
habitat that had been inadvertently left out of the proposed boundary. 
These changes from the proposed boundary were noted in the notice of 
availability of the DEA and draft environmental assessment published in 
the Federal Register (73 FR 62450, October 21, 2008).
    (3) We have clarified the primary constituent element to reflect 
the importance of mature multistoried forest stands with conifer boughs 
that touch the snow surface. These mature stands are especially 
important as lynx habitat in the northern Rocky Mountains.
    (4) We have modified the textual description of areas that are not 
included in critical habitat.

Critical Habitat

    Critical habitat is defined in section 3 of the Act as:
    (i) The specific areas within the geographical area occupied by a 
species, at the time it is listed in accordance with the Act, on which 
are found those physical or biological features
    (a) Essential to the conservation of the species and
    (b) That may require special management considerations or 
protection; and
    (ii) Specific areas outside the geographical area occupied by a 
species at the time it is listed, upon a determination that such areas 
are essential for the conservation of the species.
    Conservation, as defined under section 3 of the Act, means the use 
of all methods and procedures that are necessary to bring any 
endangered species or threatened species to the point at which the 
measures provided pursuant to the Act are no longer necessary. Such 
methods and procedures include, but are not limited to, all activities 
associated with scientific resources management such as research, 
census, law enforcement, habitat acquisition and maintenance, 
propagation, live trapping, and transplantation, and, in the 
extraordinary case where population pressures within a given ecosystem 
cannot be otherwise relieved, may include regulated taking.
    Critical habitat receives protection under section 7 of the Act 
through the prohibition against Federal agencies carrying out, funding, 
or authorizing the destruction or adverse modification of critical 
habitat. Section 7(a)(2) of the Act requires consultation on Federal 
actions that may affect critical habitat. The designation of critical 
habitat does not affect land ownership or establish a refuge, 
wilderness, reserve, preserve, or other conservation area. Such 
designation does not allow the government or public to access private 
lands. Such designation does not require implementation of restoration, 
recovery, or enhancement measures by private landowners. Where a 
landowner requests Federal agency funding or authorization for an 
action that may affect a listed species or critical habitat, the 
consultation requirements of section 7(a)(2) would apply.
    For inclusion in a critical habitat designation, the habitat within 
the geographical area occupied by the species at the time of listing 
must contain the physical and biological features that are essential to 
the conservation of the species, and be included only if those features 
may require special management consideration or protection. Critical 
habitat designations identify, to the extent known using the best 
scientific data available, habitat areas that provide essential life 
cycle needs of the species (i.e., areas on which are found those 
physical and biological features essential to the conservation of the 
species, as defined at 50 CFR 424.12(b)). Under the Act, we can 
designate critical habitat in areas outside of the geographical area 
occupied by the species at the time of listing only when we determine 
that those areas are essential for the conservation of the species.
    Section 4 of the Act requires that we designate critical habitat on 
the basis of

[[Page 8635]]

the best scientific and commercial data available. Further, our Policy 
on Information Standards Under the Endangered Species Act, published in 
the Federal Register on July 1, 1994 (59 FR 34271), the Information 
Quality Act (section 515 of the Treasury and General Government 
Appropriations Act for Fiscal Year 2001 (Pub. L. 106-554; H.R. 5658)), 
and our associated Information Quality Guidelines provide criteria, 
establish procedures, and provide guidance to ensure that our decisions 
represent the best scientific data available. They require our 
biologists, to the extent consistent with the Act and with the use of 
the best scientific data available, to use primary and original sources 
of information as the basis for recommendations to designate critical 
habitat.
    When determining which areas should be designated as critical 
habitat, our primary source of information is generally the information 
developed during the listing process for the species. Additional 
information sources may include the recovery outline or the recovery 
plan for the species, articles in peer-reviewed journals, conservation 
plans developed by States and counties, scientific status surveys and 
studies, biological assessments, or other unpublished materials and 
expert opinion or personal knowledge.
    Habitat is often dynamic, and species may move from one area to 
another over time. Furthermore, we recognize that critical habitat 
designated at a particular point in time may not include all of the 
habitat areas that we may later determine are necessary for the 
recovery of the species. For these reasons, a critical habitat 
designation does not signal that habitat outside the designation is 
unimportant or may not promote the recovery of the species.
    Areas that support populations, but are outside the critical 
habitat designation, will continue to be subject to conservation 
actions implemented under section 7(a)(1) of the Act. They are also 
subject to the regulatory protections afforded by the section 7(a)(2) 
jeopardy standard, as determined on the basis of the best available 
information at the time of the Federal agency action. Federally funded 
or permitted projects affecting listed species outside their designated 
critical habitat areas may still result in jeopardy findings in some 
cases. Similarly, critical habitat designations made on the basis of 
the best available information at the time of designation will not 
control the direction and substance of future recovery plans, habitat 
conservation plans, or other species conservation planning efforts if 
new information available to these planning efforts calls for a 
different outcome.

Primary Constituent Elements

    In accordance with section 3(5)(A)(i) of the Act and regulations at 
50 CFR 424.12, in determining which areas occupied by the species at 
the time of listing to designate as critical habitat, we consider the 
physical and biological features that are essential to the conservation 
of the species and that may require special management considerations 
and protection. We consider the physical and biological features to be 
the primary constituent elements (PCEs) laid out in the appropriate 
quantity and spatial arrangement for the conservation of the species. 
These include, but are not limited to:
    1. Space for individual and population growth and for normal 
behavior;
    2. Food, water, air, light, minerals, or other nutritional or 
physiological requirements;
    3. Cover or shelter;
    4. Sites for breeding, reproduction, and rearing (or development) 
of offspring; and
    5. Habitats that are protected from disturbance or are 
representative of the historic geographical and ecological 
distributions of a species.

Boreal Forest Landscapes (Space for Individual and Population Growth 
and Normal Behavior)

    Lynx populations respond to biotic and abiotic factors at different 
scales. At the regional scale, snow conditions, boreal forest and 
competitors (especially bobcat) influence the species' range (Aubry et 
al. 2000, p. 378-380; McKelvey et al., 2000b pp. 242-253; Hoving et 
al., 2005 p. 749). At the landscape scale within each region, natural 
and human-caused disturbance processes (e.g., fire, wind, insect 
infestations and forest management) influence the spatial and temporal 
distribution of lynx populations by affecting the distribution of good 
habitat for snowshoe hares (Agee 2000, pp. 47-73; Ruediger et al. 2000, 
pp. 1-3, 2-2--2-6, 7-3). At the stand-level scale, quality, quantity, 
and juxtaposition of habitats influence home range size, productivity, 
and survival (Aubry et al. 2000, pp. 380-390; Vashon et al. 2005a, pp. 
9-11). At the substand scale, spatial distribution and abundance of 
prey and microclimate influence movements, hunting behavior, den, and 
resting site locations.
    All of the constituent elements of critical habitat for lynx are 
found within large landscapes in what is broadly described as the 
boreal forest or cold temperate forest (Frelich and Reich 1995, p. 325, 
Agee 2000, pp. 43-46). In the contiguous United States, the boreal 
forest is more transitional rather than true boreal forest of northern 
Canada and Alaska (Agee 2000, pp. 43-46). This difference is because 
the boreal forest is at its southern limits in the contiguous United 
States, where it transitions to deciduous temperate forest in the 
Northeast and Great Lakes and subalpine forest in the west (Agee 2000, 
pp. 43-46). We use the term ``boreal forest'' because it generally 
encompasses most of the vegetative descriptions of the transitional 
forest types that comprise lynx habitat in the contiguous United States 
(Agee 2000, pp. 40-41).
    At a regional scale, lynx habitat is within the areas that support 
deep snow for extended periods and that support boreal forest 
vegetation types (see below for more detail). In eastern North America, 
lynx distribution was strongly associated with areas of deep snowfall 
and 100-km2 (40-mi2)) landscapes that had been 
previously treated with herbicides and had a high proportion of 
regenerating forest (Hoving 2001, pp. 75, 143). Hoving et al. (2004, p. 
291) concluded that the broad geographic distribution of lynx in 
eastern North America is most influenced by snowfall, but within areas 
of similarly deep snowfall, measures of forest succession become more 
important factors in determining lynx distribution. In the Rockies, 
lynx habitat relationships appear to be less tied to early successional 
forest stages, with high use, especially in the critical winter season, 
in mature multistoried forest stands where conifer branches reach the 
snow surface and thereby provide hare forage (Squires et al. 2006).
    Boreal forests used by lynx are generally cool, moist, and 
dominated by conifer tree species, primarily spruce and fir (Agee 2000, 
pp. 40-46; Aubry et al. 2000, pp. 378-382; Ruediger et al. 2000, pp. 4-
3, 4-8--4-11, 4-25--4-26, 4-29--4-30). Boreal forest landscapes used by 
lynx are a heterogeneous mosaic of vegetative cover types and 
successional forest stages created by natural and human-caused 
disturbances (McKelvey et al. 2000a, pp. 426-434). In many places 
periodic vegetation disturbances stimulate development of dense 
understory or early successional habitat for snowshoe hares (Ruediger 
et al. 2000, pp. 1-3--1-4, 7-4--7-5). In Maine, lynx were positively 
associated with landscapes altered by clearcutting 15 to 25 years 
previously (Hoving et al. 2004, p. 291). In other places, such as the 
northern Rocky Mountains, mature

[[Page 8636]]

multistoried conifer forests as well as dense regenerating conifer 
stands provide foraging habitat for lynx (Squires et al. 2006).
    The overall quality of the boreal forest landscape and 
juxtaposition of stands in suitable condition within the landscape is 
important for both lynx and snowshoe hares in that it can influence 
connectivity or movements between suitable stands, availability of food 
and cover and spatial structuring of populations or subpopulations 
(Hodges 2000b, pp. 184-195; McKelvey et al. 2000a, pp. 431-432; Walker 
2005, pp. 79). For example, lynx foraging habitat must be near denning 
habitat to allow females to adequately provision dependent kittens, 
especially when the kittens are relatively immobile. In north-central 
Washington, hare densities were higher in landscapes with an abundance 
of dense boreal forest interspersed with small patches of open habitat, 
in contrast to landscapes composed primarily of open forest 
interspersed with few dense vegetation patches (Walker 2005, p. 79). 
Similarly, in northwest Montana, connectivity of dense patches within 
the forest matrix benefited snowshoe hares (Ausband and Baty 2005, p. 
209). In mountainous areas, lynx appear to prefer flatter slopes (Apps 
2000, p. 361; McKelvey et al. 2000d, p. 333; von Kienast 2003, p. 21, 
Table 2; Maletzke 2004, pp. 17-18).
    Individual lynx require large portions of boreal forest landscapes 
to support their home ranges and to facilitate dispersal and 
exploratory travel. The size of lynx home ranges is believed to be 
strongly influenced by the quality of the habitat, particularly the 
abundance of snowshoe hares, in addition to other factors such as 
gender, age, season, and density of the lynx population (Aubry et al. 
2000, pp. 382-385; Mowat et al. 2000, pp. 276-280). Generally, females 
with kittens have the smallest home ranges while males have the largest 
home ranges (Moen et al. 2005, p. 11, Burdett et al. 2007, p. 463). 
Reported home range sizes vary greatly from 31 km2 (12 
mi2) for females and 68 km2 (26 mi2) 
for males in Maine (Vashon et al. 2005a, p. 7), 21 km2 (8 
mi2) for females to 307 km2 (119 mi2) 
for males in Minnesota (Moen et al. 2005, p. 12), and 88 km2 
(34 mi2) for females and 216 km2 (83 
mi2) for males in northwest Montana (Squires et al. 2004b, 
pp. 15-16).

Forest Type Associations

Maine

    Lynx were more likely to occur in 100 km2 (40 
mi2) landscapes with regenerating forest, and less likely to 
occur in landscapes with recent clearcut or partial harvest, (Hoving et 
al. 2004, pp. 291-292). Lynx in Maine select softwood-dominated (spruce 
and fir) regenerating stands (Vashon et al. 2005a, p. 8). Regenerating 
stands used by lynx generally develop 15-30 years after forest 
disturbance and are characterized by dense horizontal structure and 
high stem density within a meter of the ground. These habitats support 
high snowshoe hare densities (Homyack 2003, p. 63; Fuller and Harrison 
2005, pp. 716, 719; Vashon et al. 2005a, pp. 10-11). At the stand 
scale, lynx in northwestern Maine selected older (11- to 26-year-old), 
tall (4.6 to 7.3 m (15 to 24 ft)) regenerating clearcut stands and 
older (11- to 21-year-old) partially harvested stands (A. Fuller, 
University of Maine, unpubl. data).

Minnesota

    In Minnesota, lynx primarily occur in the Northern Superior Uplands 
Ecological Section of the Laurentian Mixed Forest Province. 
Historically, this area was dominated by red pine (Pinus resinosa) and 
white pine (P. strobus) mixed with aspen (Populus spp.), paper birch 
(Betula papyrifera), spruce, balsam fir (A. balsamifera) and jack pine 
(P. banksiana) (Minnesota Department of Natural Resources [Minnesota 
DNR] 2003, p. 2).
    Preliminary research suggests lynx in Minnesota generally use 
younger stands (less than 50 years) with a conifer component in greater 
proportion than their availability (R. Moen, University of Minnesota, 
unpubl. data). Lynx prefer predominantly upland forests dominated by 
red pine, white pine, jack pine, black spruce (P. mariana), paper 
birch, quaking aspen (P. tremuloides), or balsam fir (R. Moen, unpubl. 
data).

Washington

    In the North Cascades in Washington, the majority of lynx 
occurrences were found above 1,250 m (4,101 ft) (McKelvey et al. 2000b, 
p. 243, 2000d, p. 321; von Kienast 2003, p. 28, Table 2; Maletzke 2004, 
p. 17). In this area, lynx selected Engelman spruce (P. engelmanii)-
subalpine fir (A. lasiocarpa) forest cover types in winter (von Kienast 
2003, p. 28, Maletzke 2004, pp. 16-17, Koehler et al. 2008, p. 1518). 
Lodgepole pine (P. contorta) is a dominant tree species in the earlier 
successional stages of these climax cover types. Seral (intermediate 
stage of ecological succession) lodgepole stands contained dense 
understories and therefore received high use by snowshoe hares and lynx 
(Koehler 1990, pp. 847-848; McKelvey et al. 2000d, pp. 332-335). 
Douglas-fir, ponderosa pine forests, openings, recent burns, open 
canopy and understory cover, and steep slopes were all avoided habitat 
types (Koehler et al. 2008, p. 1518).

Northern Rockies

    In the Northern Rocky Mountains, the majority of lynx occurrences 
are associated with the Rocky Mountain Conifer Forest or Western 
Spruce-Fir Forest vegetative class (Kuchler 1964, p. 4; McKelvey et al. 
2000b, p. 246) and occur above 1,250 m (4,101 ft) elevation (Aubry et 
al. 2000, pp. 378-380; McKelvey et al. 2000b, pp. 243-245). The 
dominant vegetation that constitutes lynx habitat in these areas is 
subalpine fir, Engelman spruce and lodgepole pine (Aubry et al. 2000, 
p. 379; Ruediger et al. 2000, pp. 4-8--4-10). Mature multi-storied 
stands are used preferentially in winter (Squires et al. 2006). As in 
the Cascades, lodgepole pine is an earlier successional stage of 
subalpine fir and Engelman spruce climax forest cover types.

a. Snowshoe Hares (Food)

    Snowshoe hare density is the most important factor explaining the 
persistence of lynx populations (Steury and Murray 2004, p. 136). A 
minimum snowshoe hare density necessary to maintain a persistent, 
reproducing lynx population within the contiguous United States has not 
been determined, although Ruggiero et al. (2000, pp. 446-447) suggested 
that at least 0.5 hares per hectare (ha) (0.2 hares per acre (ac)) may 
be necessary. Steury and Murray (2004, p. 137)) modeled lynx and 
snowshoe hare populations and predicted that a minimum of 1.1 to 1.8 
hares per ha (0.4 to 0.7 hares per ac) was required for persistence of 
a reintroduced lynx population in the southern portion of the lynx 
range.
    The boreal forest landscape is naturally dynamic and usually 
contains a mosaic of forest stand successional stages. In some areas, 
particularly in the eastern portion of the DPS, stands that support 
high densities of snowshoe hares are of a young successional stage and 
are in a constant state of transition to other more mature stages. 
Conversely, if the vegetation potential (or climax forest type) of a 
particular forest stand is conducive to supporting abundant snowshoe 
hares, it likely will also go through successional stages that are 
unsuitable as lynx foraging (snowshoe hare habitat) or lynx denning 
habitat (Agee 2000, p. 62-72; Buskirk et al. 2000b, pp. 403-408) as 
part of a natural forest succession process. For example, a boreal 
forest stand where there has been recent disturbance, such as fire or 
timber harvest, resulting in little or no understory structure is 
unsuitable as

[[Page 8637]]

snowhoe hare habitat for lynx foraging. That temporarily unsuitable 
stand would regenerate into suitable snowshoe hare (lynx foraging) 
habitat within 10 to 25 years, depending on local conditions (Ruediger 
et al. 2000, pp. 1-3--1-4, 2-2--2-5). This continuation of this natural 
dynamism exhibited in boreal forest succession is crucial for lynx 
survival due to their dependence on intermediate successional stages in 
many areas. In places where lynx are dependent on mature forest stages, 
forest stand turnover still occurs, but on a longer time scale 
requiring the ability to recruit new mature forest stands as others are 
lost to fire, insect infestation, or human activities.
    Forest management techniques that thin the understory may render 
the habitat unsuitable for hares and, thus, for lynx (Ruediger et al. 
2000, pp. 2-4--3-2; Hoving et al. 2004, pp. 291-292). Stands may 
continue to provide suitable snowshoe hare habitat for many years until 
woody stems in the understory become too sparse, as a result of 
undisturbed forest succession or management (e.g., clearcutting or 
thinning). Thus, if the vegetation potential of the stand is 
appropriate, a stand that is not currently in a condition that is 
suitable to support abundant snowshoe hares for lynx foraging or coarse 
woody debris for den sites would develop into suitable habitat for 
snowshoe hares (and thus lynx foraging) with time. Therefore, we 
consider those forest areas with the potential, through natural 
succession, to produce high quality snowshoe hare habitat to be lynx 
habitat, regardless of the stage of forest succession that area is 
currently in.
    As described previously, snowshoe hares prefer boreal forest stands 
that have a dense horizontal understory to provide food, cover and 
security from predators. Snowshoe hares feed on conifers, deciduous 
trees, and shrubs (Hodges 2000b, pp. 181-183). Snowshoe hare density is 
correlated to understory cover between approximately 1 to 3 m (3 to 10 
ft) above the ground or snow level (Hodges 2000b, p. 184). Habitats 
most heavily used by snowshoe hares are stands with shrubs, stands that 
are densely stocked, and stands at ages where branches have more 
lateral cover (Hodges 2000b, p. 184). In Maine, the snowshoe hare 
densities were highest in stands supporting high conifer stem densities 
(Homyack 2003, p. 195, Robinson 2006, p. 69). In north-central 
Washington, snowshoe hare density was highest in 20-year-old lodgepole 
pine stands where the average density of trees and shrubs was 15,840 
stems per ha (6,415 stems per ac) (Koehler 1990, p. 848). In Montana, 
lynx use in winter corresponded to stands with a high number of large 
mature trees with branches that reached the snow surface (Squires et 
al. 2006, p. 15). Generally, earlier successional forest stages support 
a greater density of horizontal understory and more abundant snowshoe 
hares (Buehler and Keith 1982, p. 24; Wolfe et al. 1982, pp. 668-669; 
Koehler 1990, pp. 847-848; Hodges 2000b, pp. 184-191; Griffin 2004, pp. 
84-88); however, sometimes mature stands also can have adequate dense 
understory to support abundant snowshoe hares (Griffin 2004, p. 88). In 
Montana, lynx favor multistory stands, often in older-age classes, 
where the tree boughs touch the snow surface but where the stem density 
is low (Squires et al. 2006, p. 15).
    In Maine, the highest snowshoe hare densities were found in 
regenerating softwood (spruce and fir) and mixed-wood stands with high 
conifer stem densities (Fuller and Harrison 2005, pp. 716, 719, 
Robinson 2006, p. 69). In the north Cascades, the highest snowshoe hare 
densities were found in 20-year-old seral lodgepole pine stands with a 
dense understory (Koehler 1990, pp. 847-848). In montane and subalpine 
forests in northwest Montana, the highest snowshoe hare densities in 
summer were generally in younger stands with dense forest structure, 
whereas in winter, snowshoe hare densities were as high or higher in 
mature stands with dense understory forest structure (Griffin 2004, p. 
53).
    Habitats supporting abundant snowshoe hares must be present in a 
sufficient proportion (though not necessarily the majority) of the 
landscape to support a viable lynx population. Broad-scale snowshoe 
hare density estimates are not available for the areas being designated 
as lynx critical habitat. Available snowshoe hare density estimates are 
helpful in determining where snowshoe hares exist, but each estimate is 
specific to both a location and a point in time. Due to intrinsic, 
rapid fluctuations often seen in snowshoe hare populations, density 
estimates can not be considered definitive for any particular area. If 
enough data were gathered for a specific area over several years, these 
data could be used to calculate an average density (with margins of 
error included).

b. Snow Conditions (Other Physiological Requirements)

    Snow conditions also determine the distribution of lynx and 
snowshoe hares. Deep, fluffy snow conditions likely restrict potential 
competitors such as bobcat or coyote from effectively encroaching on or 
hunting in winter lynx habitat. Snowfall was the strongest predictor of 
lynx occurrence at a regional scale (Hoving et al. 2005, p. 746, Table 
5). In addition to snow depth, other snow properties, including surface 
hardness or sinking depth, are important factors in the spatial, 
ecological, and genetic structuring of the species (Stenseth et al. 
2004, p. 75).
    In the northeastern United States, lynx are most likely to occur in 
areas with a 10-year mean annual snowfall greater than 268 cm (105 in) 
(Hoving 2001, p. 75). The Northern Superior Uplands section of 
Minnesota receives more of its precipitation as snow than any section 
in the State, has the longest period of snow cover, and the shortest 
growing season (Minnesota DNR 2003, p. 2). Mean annual snowfall from 
1971 to 2000 in this area was generally greater than 149 cm (55 in) 
(University of Minnesota 2005 webpage).
    Information on average snowfall or snow depths in mountainous areas 
such as the Cascades or northwest Montana is limited because there are 
few weather stations in these regions that have measured snow fall or 
snow depth over time. An important consideration is that the topography 
strongly influences local snow conditions. For example, in the 
Cascades, at the Mazama station, average annual snowfall from 1948 to 
1976 was 292 cm (115 in) (Western Regional Climate Center 2005 
webpage). In Montana, at the Seeley Lake Ranger Station, average annual 
snowfall from 1948 to 2005 was 315 cm (124 in), while at the Troy 
station the average total snowfall from 1961 to 1994 was 229 cm (90 in) 
(Western Regional Climate Center 2005 webpage).

c. Denning Habitat (Sites for Reproduction and Rearing of Offspring)

    Lynx den sites are found in mature and younger boreal forest stands 
that have a large amount of cover and downed, large woody debris. The 
structural components of lynx den sites are common features in managed 
(logged) and unmanaged (e.g., insect damaged, wind-throw) stands. 
Downed trees provide excellent cover for den sites and kittens and 
often are associated with dense woody stem growth.
    Sub-stand characteristics were evaluated for 26 lynx dens from 1999 
to 2004 in northwest Maine. Dens were found in several stand types. 
Modeling of den site variables determined that tip-up mounds (exposed 
roots from fallen trees) alone best explained den site selection (J. 
Organ, Service, unpubl. data). Tip-up mounds may purely be an index of 
downed trees, which were

[[Page 8638]]

abundant on the landscape. Horizontal cover at 5 m (16 ft) alone was 
the next best performing model (J. Organ, unpubl. data). Dead downed 
trees were sampled, but did not explain den site selection as well as 
tip-up mounds and cover at 5 m (16 ft). Lynx essentially select dense 
cover in a cover-rich area for denning.
    In the North Cascades, Washington, lynx denned in mature (older 
than 250 years) stands with an overstory of Engelman spruce, subalpine 
fir, and lodgepole pine with an abundance of downed woody debris 
(Koehler 1990, p. 847). In this study, all den sites were located on 
north-northeast aspects (Koehler 1990, p. 847). In northwest Montana, 
the immediate areas around dens were in a variety of stand ages but all 
contained abundant woody debris including downed logs, blowdowns, and 
rootwads, and dense understory cover (Squires et al. 2004b, Table 3). 
Information on den site characteristics in Minnesota has not yet been 
reported (Moen et al. 2005, p. 8).

Primary Constituent Element for the Canada Lynx

    Within the geographical area occupied by the lynx at the time of 
listing, we must identify the physical and biological features that are 
essential to the conservation of the species and that may require 
special management considerations or protections. The physical and 
biological features are primary constituent elements (PCEs) laid out in 
a specific quantity and spatial arrangement to be essential to the 
conservation of the species.
    Based on the above needs and our current knowledge of the life 
history, biology, and ecology of the species, we have determined that 
the primary constituent element for lynx critical habitat is:
    1. Boreal forest landscapes supporting a mosaic of differing 
successional forest stages and containing:
    a. Presence of snowshoe hares and their preferred habitat 
conditions, which include dense understories of young trees, shrubs or 
overhanging boughs that protrude above the snow, and mature 
multistoried stands with conifer boughs touching the snow surface;
    b. Winter snow conditions that are generally deep and fluffy for 
extended periods of time;
    c. Sites for denning that have abundant coarse woody debris, such 
as downed trees and root wads; and
    d. Matrix habitat (e.g., hardwood forest, dry forest, non-forest, 
or other habitat types that do not support snowshoe hares) that occurs 
between patches of boreal forest in close juxtaposition (at the scale 
of a lynx home range) such that lynx are likely to travel through such 
habitat while accessing patches of boreal forest within a home range.
    This critical habitat designation is designed for the conservation 
of the physical and biological features essential to the conservation 
of the lynx and necessary to support lynx life history functions. The 
physical and biological features, described in the PCE defined above, 
comprise the essential features of boreal forest that (1) provide 
adequate prey resources necessary for the persistence of local 
populations and metapopulations of lynx through reproduction; (2) act 
as a possible source of lynx for more peripheral boreal forested areas; 
(3) enable the maintenance of home ranges; (4) incorporate snow 
conditions for which lynx are highly specialized that give lynx a 
competitive advantage over potential competitors; (5) provide denning 
habitat; and (6) provide habitat connectivity for travel within home 
ranges, exploratory movements, and dispersal within critical habitat 
units. Lynx use habitat at a landscape scale, which means that no 
single locality (small scale) contains all of the required habitat 
elements that lynx need to ensure survival and reproduction. Therefore, 
individual portions of each unit (for example, an individual forest 
stand) may not contain all of the PBFs listed above, however, each 
unit, as a landscape, does contain each of the PBFs and it is the 
landscape as a whole that contains the PCE.

Special Management Considerations or Protections

    When designating critical habitat, we assess whether the areas 
occupied by the species at the time of listing contain the physical and 
biological features that are essential to the conservation of the 
species, and whether these features may require special management 
considerations or protections.
    Lands within the revised critical habitat will require some level 
of management to address the current and future threats to the lynx and 
to maintain and protect the physical and biological features essential 
to the conservation of the species. In all units, special management 
will be required to ensure that boreal forest landscapes provide a 
mosaic of forest stands of various ages to provide abundant prey 
habitat, denning habitat, and connectivity within the landscape. The 
designation of critical habitat does not imply that lands outside of 
critical habitat do not play an important role in the conservation of 
the lynx. Federal activities that may affect areas outside of critical 
habitat, such as forest management, development, and road construction, 
are still subject to review under section 7 of the Act if they may 
affect lynx, because Federal agencies must consider effects to lynx and 
effects to critical habitat independently. The take prohibitions of 
section 9 of the Act (e.g., harm, harass, capture, kill) also continue 
to apply both inside and outside of designated critical habitat.
    Special management direction for lynx has been applied to public 
lands in much of the lynx DPS. The U.S. Forest Service (USFS), Bureau 
of Land Management (BLM), National Park Service (NPS), and the Service 
developed a Lynx Conservation Assessment and Strategy (LCAS) (Ruediger 
et al. 2000, entire) using the best available science at the time 
specifically to provide a consistent and effective approach to conserve 
lynx and lynx habitat on Federal lands (Ruediger et al. 2000). The 
overall goals of the LCAS are to recommend lynx conservation measures, 
to provide a basis for reviewing the adequacy of USFS and BLM land and 
resource management plans with regard to lynx conservation, and to 
facilitate conferencing and consultation under section 7 of the Act. 
The LCAS identifies an inclusive list of 17 potential risk factors for 
lynx or lynx habitat that may be addressed under programs, practices, 
and activities within the authority and jurisdiction of Federal land 
management agencies. The risks identified in the LCAS are based on 
effects to individual lynx, lynx populations, or to lynx habitat. 
Potential risk factors the LCAS addresses, that may affect lynx 
productivity, include: Timber management, wildland fire management, 
recreation, forest/backcountry roads and trails, livestock grazing, and 
other human developments. Potential risk factors the LCAS addresses, 
that may affect lynx mortality, include: Trapping, predator control, 
incidental or illegal shooting, and competition and predation as 
influenced by human activities and highways. Potential risk factors the 
LCAS addresses, that may affect lynx movement, include: Highways, 
railroads and utility corridors, land ownership pattern, and ski areas 
and large resorts. Other potential large-scale risk factors for lynx 
addressed by the LCAS include: Fragmentation and degradation of lynx 
refugia, lynx movement and dispersal across shrub-steppe habitats, and 
habitat degradation by nonnative and invasive plant species.

[[Page 8639]]

    The LCAS used the best available information in 2000 to ensure that 
the appropriate mosaic of habitat is provided for lynx conservation on 
Federal lands. Although the LCAS was written specifically for Federal 
lands, many of the conservation measures could be pertinent to non-
Federal lands. To facilitate project planning and allow for the 
assessment of the potential effects of a project on an individual lynx, 
the LCAS directs Federal land management agencies to delineate Lynx 
Analysis Units (LAUs). The scale of an LAU approximates the size of 
area used by an individual lynx (25 to 50 mi2 (65 to 130 
km2)). The LCAS recognizes that LAUs will likely encompass 
both lynx habitat and other areas (e.g., lakes, low elevation ponderosa 
pine (Pinus ponderosa) forest, and alpine tundra). Habitat-related 
standards the LCAS provides to address potential risks include:
    1. If more than 30 percent of lynx habitat in an LAU is currently 
in unsuitable condition, no further reduction of suitable condition 
shall occur as a result of vegetation management activities by Federal 
agencies;
    2. Within an LAU, maintain denning habitat in patches generally 
larger than 5 ac (2 ha), comprising at least 10 percent of lynx 
habitat;
    3. Maintain habitat connectivity within and between LAUs;
    4. Management actions (e.g., timber sales, salvage sales) shall not 
change more than 15 percent of lynx habitat within an LAU to an 
unsuitable condition within a 10-year period;
    5. Pre-commercial thinning will only be allowed when stands no 
longer provide snowshoe hare habitat; and
    6. On Federal lands in lynx habitat, allow no net increase in 
groomed or designated over-the-snow routes and snowmobile play areas by 
LAU.
    With the listing of the lynx in 2000, Federal agencies across the 
contiguous United States range of the lynx were required to consult 
with the Service on actions that may affect lynx. The LCAS assists 
Federal agencies in planning activities and projects in ways that 
benefit lynx or avoid adverse impacts to lynx or lynx habitat (Ruediger 
et al. 2000). If projects are designed that fail to meet the standards 
in the LCAS, the biologists using the LCAS would arrive at an adverse 
effect determination for lynx.
    A Conservation Agreement between the USFS and the Service (U.S. 
Forest Service and U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service 2000) and a similar 
Agreement between the BLM and the Service (Bureau of Land Management 
and U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service 2000) committed the USFS and BLM to 
use the LCAS in determining the effects of actions on lynx until Forest 
Plans were amended or revised to adequately conserve lynx. A 
programmatic biological opinion pursuant to section 7 of the Act 
confirmed the adequacy of the LCAS and its conservation measures to 
conserve lynx, and concluded that USFS and BLM land management plans, 
as implemented in accordance with the Conservation Agreements, would 
not jeopardize the continued existence of lynx (U.S. Fish and Wildlife 
Service 2000).
    In 2005, the USFS and the Service renewed the conservation 
agreement (U.S. Forest Service and U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service 2005) 
because the original agreement had expired. In the 2005 agreement, the 
parties agreed to take measures to reduce or eliminate adverse effects 
or risks to lynx and its occupied habitat pending amendments to Forest 
Plans. The LCAS is a basis for implementing this agreement (U.S. Forest 
Service and U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service 2005). The 2005 agreement 
was renewed on October 20, 2006, and expires December 31, 2010, unless 
renewed. The BLM continues to adhere to their original agreement 
although it expired in December 2004.
    Lynx conservation depends on management that supports boreal forest 
landscapes of sufficient size to encompass the temporal and spatial 
changes in habitat and snowshoe hare populations to support 
interbreeding lynx populations or metapopulations over time. At the 
time it was written, the LCAS provided the highest level of management 
or protection for lynx. The LCAS conservation measures address risk 
factors affecting lynx habitat and lynx productivity and were designed 
to be implemented at the scale necessary to conserve lynx. This level 
of management is appropriate for Federal lands, because they account 
for the majority of high-quality habitat in the United States, and also 
because the inadequacy of regulatory mechanisms to conserve lynx on 
these lands was the primary reason for listing the lynx as a threatened 
species under the Act. New information has become available since the 
LCAS was written, and should be taken into account by land managers. 
Kolbe et al. (2007) and Bunnell et al. (2006) published information on 
the effects of snowmobiling on lynx, and Squires et al. (2006) 
documented the importance of multilayered stands as snowshoe hare 
habitat. Ongoing research in Minnesota and Maine has resulted in 
information that contributes to our understanding of lynx and snowshoe 
hares (e.g., Moen et al. 2004; Hoving et al. 2005; Homyack et al. 2007; 
Fuller et al. 2007). In some regions of Wyoming, Washington and Maine, 
research continues. As new information becomes available, it should be 
added to that in the LCAS.
    The USFS considered some of the new information discussed above 
when it proposed to revise 18 Forest Plans under a programmatic plan 
amendment called the Northern Rocky Mountain Lynx Amendment (NRLA) 
(U.S. Forest Service 2007). Some of the LCAS standards were changed to 
guidelines because the Service determined that some risk factors were 
not negatively affecting the contiguous U.S. DPS of lynx as a whole. 
Since publication of the LCAS, lynx studied in the United States have 
been shown to use a variety of sites and conditions for denning. Lynx 
denning sites are not believed to be a limiting factor in Montana and 
Maine study areas (Service 2007, pp. 48-49). Earlier assessments also 
concluded that, in most geographic areas, denning habitat was not 
likely limiting to lynx, and existing forest plan direction would not 
result in adverse effects (Hickenbottom et al. 1999). After evaluating 
Bunnell et al. (2006, entire) and Kolbe et al. (2007, entire), we 
determined that the best information available did not indicate that 
compacted snow routes increase competition from other species to levels 
that adversely impact lynx populations in the NRLA area (Service 2007, 
pp. 55). Since the LCAS was written, new information revealed the 
importance of multi-storied stands for lynx (Squires et al. 2006). On 
the basis of the above information, the USFS included a standard for 
conserving multi-storied stands in the NRLA. This LCAS does not contain 
this standard.
    In addition to diverging from the standards in the LCAS because of 
new information, the NRLA also deviated from the LCAS by allowing 
additional fuels reduction projects in areas within the wildlands-
urban-interface (WUI). In our analysis of the NRLA, we determined that 
the management in the NRLA area would provide for the recovery of lynx 
in these areas by addressing the major reason we listed the lynx in 
2000--the lack of guidance for conservation of lynx in Federal land 
management plans. Consultation under section 7 of the Act was completed 
for the NRLA in 2007, and it is now official land management direction 
for the National Forests that adopted it.
    In Maine, lynx populations occur in extensive boreal forest 
landscapes where large, contiguous stands of young, regenerating 
spruce-fir habitat

[[Page 8640]]

are prevalent and support high densities of snowshoe hares. 
Historically, habitat was likely created by natural forest 
disturbances, fire, insects and disease, and windthrow. Most of the 
lynx in Maine occur on private, industrial forest lands. Large-scale, 
industrial forest management has created the current habitat, and 
future forest management that produces extensive stands supporting high 
hare densities is needed to support lynx populations. The Service 
developed Canada Lynx Habitat Management Guidelines for Maine 
(McCollough 2007, entire). These guidelines specify the special 
management--recommendations on land use, forest conditions, landscape 
conditions, and silviculture requirements--needed to support lynx 
populations based on the best available science (see discussion of 
Healthy Forest Reserve Program for further details).

Criteria Used To Identify Critical Habitat

    As required by section 4(b)(2) of the Act, we used the best 
scientific data available to designate critical habitat. In order to 
determine those specific areas occupied by the species at the time it 
was listed on which are found those physical or biological features 
essential to the conservation of the species, as required by section 
3(5)(a)(i) of the Act, we reviewed the approach to the conservation of 
the lynx provided in a recovery outline (Service 2005, entire); 
information from State, Federal and Tribal agencies; and information 
from academia and private organizations that have collected scientific 
data on lynx.
    The focus of our strategy in considering lands for designation as 
critical habitat was on boreal forest landscapes of sufficient size to 
encompass the temporal and spatial changes in habitat and snowshoe hare 
populations to support interbreeding lynx populations or 
metapopulations over time. These factors are included in the PCE for 
lynx. According to the recovery strategy, areas that meet these 
criteria are considered ``core habitat areas'' for lynx (USFWS 2005, p. 
4); however, for critical habitat, we have refined areas based on 
evidence of breeding populations. As stated in the proposed rule, the 
areas we consider essential to the conservation of lynx have the 
physical and biological features essential to lynx in sufficient 
quantity and spatial arrangement, as evidenced by consistent occupancy 
and reproduction by lynx. We focused on consistency of lynx presence 
and reproduction, because areas with these characteristics represent 
resiliency during population lows, which is key to the species' 
survival. Areas that meet these criteria contrast with areas that may 
serve as temporary habitat for unsuccessful dispersers during 
population highs, but do not support lynx reproduction, and therefore 
are not likely to play a role in lynx conservation. Individual lynx 
maintain large home ranges; the areas identified as having features 
essential to the conservation of the lynx are large enough to encompass 
multiple home ranges. A secondary consideration is that, in addition to 
supporting breeding populations, these areas provide connectivity among 
patches of suitable habitat (e.g., patches containing abundant snowshoe 
hares), whose locations in the landscape shift through time. Areas that 
have historical records of lynx, but no record of reproduction, and 
that support lynx during dispersal movements, are considered 
``secondary areas'' (USFWS 2005, p. 4). Areas outside core and 
secondary areas that have sporadic records of lynx are considered 
``peripheral areas'' (USFWS 2005, p. 4).
    We reviewed available information that pertains to the habitat 
requirements of this species and its principal prey, the snowshoe hare. 
This information included data in reports submitted by researchers 
holding recovery permits under section 10(a)(1)(A) of the Act; research 
published in peer-reviewed articles, presented in academic theses, 
agency reports and unpublished data; and various Geographic Information 
System (GIS) coverages (e.g., land cover type information, land 
ownership information, snow depth information, topographic information, 
locations of lynx obtained from radio-or GPS-collars and locations of 
lynx confirmed via DNA analysis or other verified records).
    In designating critical habitat for the lynx we used the best 
scientific data available to evaluate areas that possess the physical 
and biological features essential to the conservation of the species 
and that may require special management considerations or protection. 
In evaluating areas as critical habitat, we first conducted a two-part 
analysis: (1) We relied on information used during listing of the 
species, and any available newer information, to delineate the 
geographic area occupied by the species at the time of listing, and (2) 
used the best available scientific information to determine which 
occupied areas contain the physical and biological features essential 
to the conservation of the lynx.
    In determining the geographic area occupied by the species, we 
utilized data providing verified evidence of the occurrence of lynx and 
evidence of the presence of breeding lynx populations as represented by 
records of lynx reproduction. We find that evidence of breeding 
populations is the best way to verify that the physical and biological 
features essential to lynx are present in sufficient quantity and 
spatial configuration to meet the needs of the species, and qualify as 
critical habitat. We eliminated areas from consideration in two ways: 
(1) Areas outside the known historical range and (2) data older than 
1995 were not considered valid to our assessment of occurrence and 
reproduction of lynx. We used data on the known historical range of the 
lynx (e.g., McKelvey et al. 2000b, pp. 207-232; Hoving et al. 2003, 
entire) to eliminate areas outside the historical range of the species.
    We then focused on records since 1995 to ensure that this critical 
habitat designation is based on the data that most closely represents 
the current status of lynx in the contiguous United States and the 
geographical area known to be occupied by the species at the time of 
listing. Although the average lifespan of a wild lynx is not known, we 
assumed that a lynx born in 1995 could have been alive in 2000 or 2003, 
when the final listing rule and the clarification of findings were 
published. Data after 1995 were considered valid. Recent verified lynx 
occurrence records were provided by Federal research entities, State 
wildlife agencies, academic researchers, and private individuals or 
organizations working on lynx (K. Aubry, Pacific Northwest Research 
Station, unpubl. data; S. Gehman, Wildthings Unlimited, unpubl. data; 
S. Gniadek, Glacier National Park, unpubl. data; S. Loch, Independent 
Scientist, and E. Lindquist, Superior National Forest, unpubl. data; K. 
McKelvey, Rocky Mountain Research Station; unpubl. data; Minnesota DNR 
2005 Web site; R. Moen, University of Minnesota, Natural Resources 
Research Institute, unpubl. data.; J. Squires, Rocky Mountain Research 
Station, unpubl. data; J. Vashon, Maine Department of Inland Fisheries 
and Wildlife, unpubl. data).
    We used only verified lynx records, because we wanted to rely on 
the best available data to evaluate specific areas and their features 
for critical habitat designation. The reliability of lynx occurrence 
reports can be questionable because the bobcat, a common species, can 
be confused with the lynx, which is similar in appearance. 
Additionally, many surveys are conducted by snow tracking in which 
correct identification of tracks can be difficult because of variable 
conditions affecting the quality

[[Page 8641]]

of the track and variable expertise of the tracker. Our definition of a 
verified lynx record is modified from McKelvey et al. (2000b, p. 209)--
(1) an animal (live or dead) in hand or observed closely by a person 
knowledgeable in lynx identification, (2) genetic (DNA) confirmation, 
(3) snow tracks only when confirmed by genetic analysis (e.g., McKelvey 
et al. 2006, entire) or (4) location data from radio or GPS-collared 
lynx. Documentation of lynx reproduction consists of lynx kittens in 
hand, or observed with the mother by someone knowledgeable in lynx 
identification, or snow tracks demonstrating family groups traveling 
together, as identified by a person highly knowledgeable in 
identification of carnivore tracks. However, we made an exception and 
accepted snow track data from Maine because of the stringent protocols 
used in confirming tracks as lynx and the minimal number of species in 
the area with which lynx tracks could be misidentified (McCollough 
2006, entire).
    To define critical habitat according to section 3(5)(A) of the Act, 
we then delineated, within the geographical area currently occupied by 
the species at the time of listing, areas containing physical and 
biological features essential to the conservation of the lynx. The 
physical and biological features (as defined above under Primary 
Constituent Elements) were determined by including recent lynx records, 
evidence of breeding lynx populations, the boreal forest type that is 
currently occupied by lynx in that particular region, and direct 
connectivity with lynx populations in Canada. Lynx populations in the 
contiguous United States are influenced by lynx population dynamics in 
Canada (Thiel 1987; McKelvey et al. 2000a, p. 427, 2000c, p. 33). Many 
of these populations in Canada are directly interconnected with United 
States populations and are likely a source of emigration into the 
contiguous United States; lynx from the contiguous United States are 
known to move into Canada. Therefore, we assume that retaining 
connectivity with larger lynx populations in Canada is important to 
ensuring long-term persistence of lynx populations in the United 
States. We assume that, regionally, lynx within the contiguous United 
States and adjacent Canadian provinces interact as metapopulations. 
Where available, data on historic average snow depths and bobcat 
harvest provided additional insight for refining and delineating 
appropriate boundaries for consideration as critical habitat.
    In the North Cascades and Northern Rockies, the features essential 
to the conservation of lynx, the majority of lynx records, evidence of 
reproduction, and the boreal forest types are typically, though not 
always, found above 4,000 feet (ft) (1,219 meters [m]) in elevation 
(McKelvey et al. 2000b, pp. 243-245; McAllister et al. 2000, entire). 
Thus, we limited the delineation of critical habitat to lands above 
this elevation unless we had habitat data indicating that suitable 
habitat exists below this elevation. Additionally, in the North 
Cascades, features essential to the conservation of the lynx and the 
majority of the lynx records and evidence of reproduction occur east of 
the crest of the Cascade Mountains.
    Based on comments received, the availability of better maps and 
inspection of aerial photos, we adjusted some boundaries of the areas 
proposed for critical habitat to better reflect the distribution of 
lynx habitat. The boundaries are modified in Units 2 (Minnesota), 3 
(northern Rockies), and 5 (GYA) to better reflect the location of the 
PCE through the use of new habitat mapping data obtained from State and 
Federal agencies and private industry. Boundaries in Units 1 (Maine) 
and 4 (Washington) remained the same with the exception of 4(b)(2) 
exclusions (discussed in Exclusions Under Section 4(b)(2) of the Act 
section below).
    Given the scale of the critical habitat units, it was not feasible 
to completely avoid inclusion of water bodies, including lakes, 
reservoirs and rivers, grasslands, or human-made structures such as 
buildings, paved and gravel roadbeds, parking lots, and other 
structures that lack the PCE for the lynx. These areas, including any 
developed areas and the land on which such structures are located, that 
exist inside critical habitat boundaries, are excluded by text and are 
not designated critical habitat. Therefore, Federal actions limited to 
these areas would not trigger section 7 consultation, unless they 
affect the species or primary constituent element in adjacent critical 
habitat.
    When considering what areas to include as critical habitat, we 
focused closely on areas with reliable evidence of lynx occurrence and 
reproduction since 1995. For example, because there is no verified 
evidence of lynx occupation or reproduction in New Hampshire or western 
Maine since 1995, we did not consider these areas to have the physical 
and biological features essential to lynx. In addition, while 
evaluating information for the critical habitat proposal, we received 
bobcat harvest data for Minnesota showing abundant bobcat harvest and a 
lack of lynx presence in the area west of the critical habitat unit in 
Minnesota, which suggests the western portion of the area preliminarily 
delineated as core habitat in Minnesota may not be of high quality for 
lynx.
    We determined that the Kettle Range in north-central Washington 
does not contain the physical and biological features essential to lynx 
in viable quantity and spatial arrangement, and therefore we did not 
include it in our proposed or final revised critical habitat rules. The 
Kettle Range historically (through the 1970s) supported lynx 
populations (Stinson 2001, pp.13-14). However, although boreal forest 
habitat within the Kettle Range appears to contain high quality habitat 
for lynx, there is no evidence that the Kettle Range is currently 
occupied by a reproducing lynx population (Koehler 2005 entire). In 
particular, while we continue to receive sporadic reports from the 
area, we have no information to suggest a lynx population has occupied 
the Kettle range since 1995, so it did not meet our criteria for 
consideration as critical habitat. Therefore, we did not include the 
Kettle Range in our critical habitat designation.
    Native lynx were extirpated from their historic range in Colorado 
and southern Wyoming in the Southern Rocky Mountains by the time the 
lynx was listed in 2000. In 1999, the State of Colorado began to 
reintroduce lynx. Subsequent to the release, lynx have dispersed to 
many areas of varying habitat quality, such as to the Great Plains in 
Nebraska, the Wasatch Range in Utah, and San Juan Mountains of New 
Mexico. Although it is too early to determine whether the Colorado 
introduction will result in a self-sustaining population, the 
reintroduced lynx produced kittens in the early years of the program. 
Over the last several years, reproduction has been very low, suggesting 
that the population may not be viable (Shenk 2007, p. 1) and that 
absent ingress from Canadian populations to the north, viability of any 
of the contiguous U.S. lynx populations may be suspect (Murray et al. 
2008). Due to the distances lynx must cover to reach the southern 
Rockies from other occupied and reproductive populations, we are still 
unable to conclude that this region has the necessary habitat to 
maintain a lynx population. We determined that the marginal habitat in 
the Southern Rockies, and habitat not within the historical range of 
lynx where these animals have dispersed outside of Colorado, are not 
essential to the conservation of lynx because they likely lack the 
quantity and spatial arrangement of physical and biological features 
essential to the species.

[[Page 8642]]

    Many areas within the contiguous United States have one or more 
individual lynx records with no evidence of persistent, reproducing 
lynx populations. It is possible, though unlikely, that some of these 
areas may support undocumented persistent populations of lynx. However, 
most of these records are likely a result of wide-ranging dispersal 
events, occur in habitat that is less suitable for lynx than in the 
core areas, and are mostly disjunct from areas that contain persistent 
lynx populations. We consider these areas as secondary or peripheral 
(as defined in the Recovery Outline), and their role in sustaining 
persistent lynx populations is unclear; such areas may provide habitat 
to dispersing lynx, especially when populations are at a cyclic high. 
The areas we consider essential to the conservation of lynx have the 
PCE, which provide for the ability to maintain and produce lynx during 
population lows. Due to their lack of demonstrated ability to provide 
the PCE for conservation of the species, we do not believe that 
secondary and peripheral areas meet the definition of critical habitat 
for lynx.
    Secondary and peripheral areas contain only periodic records of 
lynx over time, and they lack evidence of reproducing lynx populations. 
Habitat suitability for lynx has not been assessed throughout the 
secondary and peripheral areas, so we are not certain whether the 
essential features (i.e., PCE) are present. However, the relative lack 
of lynx records over time, and, in particular the lack of evidence of 
reproducing populations, may suggest that habitat (snowshoe hare 
densities, in particular) has not been adequate historically, nor is it 
currently adequate, to support reproducing lynx populations. 
Additionally, some of the peripheral areas are naturally disjunct and 
support few historical records of lynx.

Critical Habitat Designation

    We are designating five units as critical habitat for the lynx 
(Table 1). The critical habitat units described below constitute our 
best assessment at this time of areas: (1) We determined to be occupied 
at the time of listing, (2) that contain the physical and biological 
features (i.e., the primary constituent element in the appropriate 
spatial arrangement and quantity) essential for the conservation of the 
species, and (3) that may require special management considerations or 
protection. The five areas designated as critical habitat are Unit 1 in 
northwestern Maine, Unit 2 in the Arrowhead region of Minnesota, Unit 3 
in Montana and Idaho, Unit 4 in the North Cascades of Washington, and 
Unit 5 in the Greater Yellowstone Area of Wyoming, Montana, and Idaho. 
To further understand the location of these designated areas, please 
see the associated maps found within this final rule (also available at 
our Web site: http://mountain-prairie.fws.gov/species/mammals/lynx/). 
Table 1 shows the critical habitat unit areas, area that was proposed 
for designation, approximate area being excluded from the designation, 
land ownership, and the approximate area being designated as critical 
habitat.

                             Table 1--Critical Habitat Units Designated for the Lynx
----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
                                       Area proposed
       Critical habitat units         for designation   Excluded area        Land ownership      Area designated
                                       km\2\ (mi\2\)    km\2\ (mi\2\)                             km\2\ (mi\2\)
----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
Unit 1: Maine.......................        27,539.1          2,884.0   Private, State, Federal        24,597.5
                                           (10,632.9)        (1,113.5)                                 (9,497.2)
Unit 2: Minnesota...................        21,305.4            202.6   Federal, Private, State        20,888.4
                                            (8,226.1)           (78.2)                                 (8,065.1)
Unit 3: Northern Rocky Mountains (MT        29,276.5            956.6   Federal, Private, State        26,162.9
 and ID).                                  (11,303.7)          (369.4)                                (10,101.6)
Unit 4: North Cascades..............         5,179.7            424.7   Federal, Private.......         4,755.0
                                            (1,999.9)          (164.0)                                 (1,835.9)
Unit 5: Greater Yellowstone Area....        27,427.4                0   Federal, State, Private        24,606.1
                                           (10,589.8)              (0)                                 (9,500.5)
                                     ---------------------------------------------------------------------------
    Total...........................       110,728.1          4,467.9   .......................       101,009.9
                                           (42,752.4)        (1,725.1)  .......................       (39,000.3)
----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------

    We provide a brief description of all units, and reasons why they 
meet the definition of critical habitat for the Canada lynx. The 
section that follows explains our decision to exclude certain lands 
pursuant to Section 4(b)(2) of the Act.

Unit 1: Northern Maine--24,597 km\2\ (9,497 mi\2\)

    Unit 1 is located in northern Maine in portions of Aroostook, 
Franklin, Penobscot, Piscataquis, and Somerset Counties. This area was 
occupied by the lynx at the time of listing and is currently occupied 
by the species. Lynx in northwestern Maine have high productivity: 91 
percent of available adult females (greater than 2 years) produced 
litters, and litters averaged 2.83 kittens (Vashon et al. 2005b, pp. 4-
6). This area contains the physical and biological features essential 
to the conservation of the lynx as it is comprised of the primary 
constituent element and its components laid out in the appropriate 
quantity and spatial arrangement. This area is also important for lynx 
conservation because it is the only area in the northeastern region of 
the lynx's range within the contiguous United States that currently 
supports breeding lynx populations and likely acts as a source or 
provides connectivity for more peripheral portions of the lynx's range 
in the Northeast. Timber harvest and management is the dominant land 
use within the unit; therefore, special management is required 
depending on the silvicultural practices conducted (68 FR 40075; July 
3, 2003). Timber management practices that provide for a dense 
understory are beneficial for lynx and snowshoe hares. In this area, 
other habitat-related threats to lynx are lack of an International 
conservation strategy for lynx, traffic, and development (68 FR 40075).

Unit 2: Northeastern Minnesota--20,888 km\2\ (8,065 mi\2\)

    Unit 2 is located in northeastern Minnesota in portions of Cook, 
Koochiching, Lake, and St. Louis Counties, and Superior National 
Forest. In 2003, when we last formally reviewed the status of the lynx,

[[Page 8643]]

numerous verified records of lynx existed from northeastern Minnesota 
(68 FR 40076, July 3, 2003). The area was occupied at the time of 
listing and is currently occupied by the species. Lynx are currently 
known to be distributed throughout northeastern Minnesota, as has been 
confirmed through DNA analysis, radio- and GPS-collared animals, and 
documentation of reproduction (Moen et al. 2004, entire; Minnesota DNR 
2005, entire; S. Loch, unpubl. data; Minnesota Department of Natural 
Resources, unpubl. data). This area contains the physical and 
biological features essential to the conservation of the lynx as it is 
comprised of the primary constituent element and its components laid 
out in the appropriate quantity and spatial arrangement. This area is 
essential to the conservation of lynx because it is the only area in 
the Great Lakes region for which we have evidence of recent lynx 
reproduction. It likely acts as a source or provides connectivity for 
more peripheral portions of the lynx's range in the region. Timber 
harvest and management is a dominant land use (68 FR 40075). Therefore, 
special management is required depending on the silvicultural practices 
conducted. Timber management practices that provide for a dense 
understory are beneficial for lynx and snowshoe hares. In this area, 
lack of an International conservation strategy for lynx, fire 
suppression or fuels treatment, traffic, and development are other 
habitat-related threats to lynx (68 FR 40075).
    Specific sections of land encompassing a mining district in 
Minnesota known as the Iron Range are not included in this revised 
designation because they do not contain the physical and biological 
features essential to the conservation of lynx. In much of the Iron 
Range, mining has removed all vegetation and much of this area was 
subsequently flooded. Areas that are still vegetated and not flooded 
are extensively fragmented by the mined areas and haul roads. We used 
the ``GAP Land Cover--Tiled Raster'' dataset (Minnesota Department of 
Natural Resources 2002) to identify sections that are heavily 
influenced by mining activities. Areas described as ``Barren'' and 
``Mixed Developed'' in the GAP dataset seemed to correspond to areas 
that were mined or extensively disturbed by mining-related activities 
(e.g., service roads), based on aerial photos (National Agricultural 
Imagery Program 2003). Further inspection of aerial photos indicates 
that additional sections exist with extensive effects of mining, beyond 
that indicated by the GAP data, which is based on 10-15-year-old 
satellite imagery. These disturbed areas are not included in this final 
designation and are reflected in the final maps provided with the rule 
and in the unit boundary description.

Unit 3: Northern Rocky Mountains 26,163 km\2\ (10,102 mi\2\)

    Unit 3 is located in northwestern Montana and a small portion of 
northeastern Idaho in portions of Boundary County in Idaho and 
Flathead, Glacier, Granite, Lake, Lewis and Clark, Lincoln, Missoula, 
Pondera, Powell and Teton Counties in Montana. It includes National 
Forest lands and BLM lands in the Garnet Resource Area. This area was 
occupied by lynx at the time of listing and is currently occupied by 
the species. Lynx are known to be widely distributed throughout this 
unit and breeding has been documented in multiple locations (Gehman et 
al. 2004, pp. 24-29; Squires et al. 2004a, pp. 7-10 and 2004b, pp. 8-
10). This area contains the physical and biological features essential 
to the conservation of the lynx as it is comprised of the primary 
constituent element and its components laid out in the appropriate 
quantity and spatial arrangement. This area is essential to the 
conservation of lynx because it appears to support the highest density 
lynx populations in the Northern Rocky Mountain region of the lynx's 
range. It likely acts as a source for lynx and provides connectivity to 
other portions of the lynx's range in the Rocky Mountains, particularly 
the Yellowstone area. Timber harvest and management is a dominant land 
use (68 FR 40075); therefore, special management is required depending 
on the silvicultural practices conducted. Timber management practices 
that provide for a dense understory are beneficial for lynx and 
snowshoe hares. In this area, fire suppression or fuels treatment, lack 
of an International conservation strategy for lynx, traffic, and 
development are other habitat-related threats to lynx (68 FR 40075).

Unit 4: North Cascades 4,755 km\2\ (1,836 mi\2\)

    Unit 4 is located in north-central Washington in portions of Chelan 
and Okanogan Counties, and includes BLM lands in the Spokane District. 
This area was occupied at the time lynx was listed and is currently 
occupied by the species. This unit supports the highest densities of 
lynx in Washington (Stinson 2001). Evidence from limited recent 
research and DNA shows lynx distributed within this unit, with breeding 
being documented (von Kienast 2003, p. 36; K. Aubry, Pacific Northwest 
Research Station, unpubl. data; B. Maletzke, Washington State 
University, unpubl. data). Although there appear to be fewer records in 
the portion of the unit south of Highway 20, few surveys have been 
conducted in this portion of the unit. This area contains boreal forest 
habitat and the components essential to the conservation of the lynx. 
Further, it is contiguous with the portion of the unit north of Highway 
20, particularly in winter when deep snows close Highway 20. The 
northern portion of the unit adjacent to the Canadian border also 
appears to support few recent lynx records; however, it is designated 
wilderness, so access to survey this area is difficult. This northern 
portion contains extensive boreal forest vegetation types and the 
components essential to the conservation of the lynx. Additionally, 
lynx populations exist in British Columbia directly north of this unit 
(E. Lofrothe, British Columbia Ministry of the Environment, unpubl. 
data).
    This area contains the physical and biological features essential 
to the conservation of the lynx as it contains the primary constituent 
element and its components laid out in the appropriate quantity and 
spatial arrangement. This area is essential to the conservation of lynx 
because it is the only area in the Cascades region of the lynx's range 
that is known to support breeding lynx populations. Timber harvest and 
management is a dominant land use; therefore, special management is 
required depending on the silvicultural practices conducted. Timber 
management practices that provide for a density understory are 
beneficial for lynx and snowshoe hares. In this area, Federal land 
management plans have not been amended to incorporate lynx 
conservation. The lack of an International conservation strategy for 
lynx, traffic, and development are other habitat-related threats to 
lynx (68 FR 40075).

Unit 5: Greater Yellowstone Area 24,606 km\2\ (9,500 mi\2\)

    Unit 5 is located in Yellowstone National Park and surrounding 
lands in southwestern Montana and northwestern Wyoming. Lands in this 
unit are found in Gallatin, Park, Sweetgrass, Stillwater, and Carbon 
Counties in Montana, and Park, Teton, Fremont, Sublette, and Lincoln 
Counties in Wyoming. This area was occupied by lynx at the time of 
listing and is currently occupied by the species. The area contains the 
physical and biological features essential to the conservation of the 
lynx. The GYA is

[[Page 8644]]

naturally marginal lynx habitat with highly fragmented foraging 
habitat. For this reason lynx home ranges in this unit are likely to be 
larger and incorporate large areas of non-foraging matrix habitat. In 
this area, fire suppression or fuels treatment, lack of an 
International conservation strategy for lynx, traffic, and development 
are other habitat-related threats to lynx (68 FR 40075). Therefore, 
special management is required depending on the fire suppression and 
fuels treatment practices conducted and the design of highway 
development projects.

Effects of Critical Habitat Designation

Section 7 Consultation

    Section 7 of the Act requires Federal agencies to ensure that 
actions they fund, authorize, or carry out are not likely to jeopardize 
the continued existence of a listed species or destroy or adversely 
modify critical habitat. Decisions by the Fifth and Ninth Circuit Court 
of Appeals have invalidated our definition of ``destruction or adverse 
modification'' (50 CFR 402.02) (see Gifford Pinchot Task Force v. U.S. 
Fish and Wildlife Service 378 F.3d 1059 (9th Cir 2004) and Sierra Club 
v. U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service et al., 245 F.3d 434, 442F (5th Cir 
2001)), and we do not rely on our regulatory definition when analyzing 
whether an action is likely to destroy or adversely modify critical 
habitat. Under the Act, we determine destruction or adverse 
modification on the basis of whether, with implementation of the 
proposed Federal action, the affected critical habitat would remain 
functional (or retain the current ability for the PCEs to be 
functionally established) to serve its intended conservation role for 
the species.
    Under section 7(a)(2) of the Act, if a Federal action may affect a 
listed species or its critical habitat, the responsible Federal agency 
(action agency) must analyze the effects of their action on the listed 
species. If the action may adversely affect listed species, the Federal 
agency must enter into consultation with us. As a result of this 
consultation, we may document compliance with the requirements of 
section 7(a)(2) through our issuance of:
    1. A concurrence letter for Federal actions that may affect, but 
are not likely to adversely affect, listed species or critical habitat; 
or
    2. A biological opinion for Federal actions likely to adversely 
affect listed species or critical habitat.
    When we issue a biological opinion concluding that a project is 
likely to jeopardize the continued existence of a listed species or 
destroy or adversely modify critical habitat, we also provide 
reasonable and prudent alternatives to the project, if any are 
identifiable. We define ``Reasonable and prudent alternatives'' at 50 
CFR 402.02 as alternative actions identified during consultation that:
     Can be implemented in a manner consistent with the 
intended purpose of the action,
     Can be implemented consistently with the scope of the 
Federal agency's legal authority and jurisdiction,
     Are economically and technologically feasible, and
     Would, in the Director's opinion, avoid jeopardizing the 
continued existence of the listed species or destroying or adversely 
modifying critical habitat.
    Reasonable and prudent alternatives can vary from slight project 
modifications to extensive redesign or relocation of the project. Costs 
associated with implementing a reasonable and prudent alternative are 
similarly variable.
    Regulations at 50 CFR 402.16 require Federal agencies to reinitiate 
consultation on previously reviewed actions in instances where we have 
listed a new species or subsequently designated critical habitat that 
may be affected and the Federal agency has retained discretionary 
involvement or control over the action (or the agency's discretionary 
involvement or control is authorized by law). Consequently, Federal 
agencies may sometimes need to request reinitiation of consultation 
with us on actions for which formal consultation has been completed, if 
those actions with discretionary involvement or control may affect 
subsequently listed species or designated critical habitat.
    Federal activities that may affect the lynx or its designated 
critical habitat will require section 7(a)(2) consultation under the 
Act. Activities on State, tribal, local, or private lands requiring a 
Federal permit (such as a permit from the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers 
under section 404 of the Clean Water Act (33 U.S.C. 1251 et seq.) or 
involving some other Federal action (such as funding from the Federal 
Highway Administration, the Federal Aviation Administration, or the 
Federal Emergency Management Agency) or a permit from us under section 
10(a)(1)(B) of the Act) will also be subject to the consultation 
process under section 7(a)(2) of the Act. Federal actions not affecting 
listed species or critical habitat, and actions on State, tribal, local 
or private lands that are not Federally funded, authorized, or carried 
out, do not require section 7(a)(2) consultations.

Application of the ``Adverse Modification Standard''

    The key factor related to the adverse modification determination is 
whether, with implementation of the proposed Federal action, the 
affected critical habitat would remain functional (or retain the 
current ability for the PCEs to be functionally established) to serve 
the intended conservation role for the species. Activities that may 
destroy or adversely modify critical habitat are those that alter the 
physical and biological features to an extent that appreciably reduces 
the conservation value of critical habitat for lynx. Generally, the 
conservation role of lynx critical habitat units is to support viable 
core area populations.
    Section 4(b)(8) of the Act requires us to briefly evaluate and 
describe, in any proposed or final regulation that designates critical 
habitat, activities involving a Federal action that may destroy or 
adversely modify such habitat, or that may be affected by such 
designation.
    Activities that, when carried out, funded, or authorized by a 
Federal agency, may affect critical habitat, and therefore, should 
result in consultation, include, but are not limited to:
    1. Actions that would reduce or remove understory vegetation within 
boreal forest stands on a scale proportionate to the large landscape 
used by lynx. Such activities could include, but are not limited to, 
forest stand thinning, timber harvest, and fuels treatment of forest 
stands. These activities could significantly reduce the quality of 
snowshoe hare habitat such that the landscape's ability to produce 
adequate densities of snowshoe hares to support persistent lynx 
populations is at least temporarily diminished.
    2. Actions that would cause permanent loss or conversion of the 
boreal forest on a scale proportionate to the large landscape used by 
lynx. Such activities could include, but are not limited to, 
recreational area developments; certain types of mining activities and 
associated developments; and road building. Such activities could 
eliminate and fragment lynx and snowshoe hare habitat.
    3. Actions that would increase traffic volume and speed on roads 
that divide lynx critical habitat. Such activities could include, but 
are not limited to, transportation projects to upgrade roads or 
development of a new tourist destination. These activities could reduce 
connectivity within the boreal forest landscape for lynx, and could

[[Page 8645]]

result in increased mortality of lynx within the critical habitat 
units, because lynx are highly mobile and frequently cross roads during 
dispersal, exploratory movements, or travel within their home ranges.
    In matrix habitat, activities that change vegetation structure or 
condition would not be considered an adverse effect to lynx critical 
habitat unless those activities would create a barrier or impede lynx 
movement between patches of foraging habitat and between foraging and 
denning habitat within a potential home range, or if they would 
adversely affect adjacent foraging habitat or denning habitat. For 
example, a pre-commercial thinning or fuels reduction project in matrix 
habitat would not adversely affect lynx critical habitat, and would not 
require consultation. However, a new highway passing through matrix 
habitat that would impede lynx movement may be an adverse effect to 
lynx critical habitat, and would require consultation. The scale of any 
activity should be examined to determine whether direct or indirect 
alteration of habitat would occur to the extent that the value of 
critical habitat for the survival and recovery of lynx would be 
appreciably diminished.
    If you have questions regarding whether specific activities may 
constitute destruction or adverse modification of critical habitat, 
contact the Supervisor of the appropriate Ecological Services Field 
Office (see list below).

------------------------------------------------------------------------
             State                      Address           Phone number
------------------------------------------------------------------------
MAINE.........................  1168 Main Street, Old   (207) 827-5938
                                 Town, Maine 04468.
MINNESOTA.....................  4101 East 80th Street,  (612) 725-3548
                                 Bloomington,
                                 Minnesota 55425.
MONTANA.......................  585 Shepard Way,        (406) 449-5225
                                 Helena, Montana 59601.
WASHINGTON AND IDAHO..........  11103 E. Montgomery     (509) 893-8015
                                 Drive, Spokane,
                                 Washington 99206.
WYOMING.......................  5353 Yellowstone Road,  (307) 772-2374
                                 Suite 308A, Cheyenne,
                                 Wyoming 82009.
------------------------------------------------------------------------

    All of the units designated as critical habitat, as well as 
specific areas that have been excluded, contain features essential to 
the conservation of the lynx. All units are within the geographical 
range of the species, and all are currently occupied by the species 
based on based on surveys and research documenting the presence and 
reproduction of lynx (68 FR 40076, July 3, 2003). Under section 7 of 
the Act, Federal agencies already consult with us on activities in 
areas currently occupied by the lynx, or if the species may be affected 
by the action, to ensure that their actions do not jeopardize the 
continued existence of the lynx.

Application of Section 4(a)(3) of the Act

    The Sikes Act of 1997 (Sikes Act) (16 U.S.C. 670a) required each 
military installation that includes land and water suitable for the 
conservation and management of natural resources to complete an 
integrated natural resource management plan (INRMP) by November 17, 
2001. An INRMP integrates implementation of the military mission of the 
installation with stewardship of the natural resources found on the 
base. Each INRMP includes:
     An assessment of the ecological needs on the installation, 
including the need to provide for the conservation of listed species;
     A statement of goals and priorities;
     A detailed description of management actions to be 
implemented to provide for these ecological needs; and
     A monitoring and adaptive management plan.
    Among other things, each INRMP must, to the extent appropriate and 
applicable, provide for fish and wildlife management; fish and wildlife 
habitat enhancement or modification; wetland protection, enhancement, 
and restoration where necessary to support fish and wildlife; and 
enforcement of applicable natural resource laws.
    The National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2004 (Pub. 
L. 108-136) amended the Act to limit areas eligible for designation as 
critical habitat. Specifically, section 4(a)(3)(B)(i) of the Act (16 
U.S.C. 1533(a)(3)(B)(i)) now provides: ``The Secretary shall not 
designate as critical habitat any lands or other geographical areas 
owned or controlled by the Department of Defense, or designated for its 
use, that are subject to an integrated natural resources management 
plan prepared under section 101 of the Sikes Act (16 U.S.C. 670a), if 
the Secretary determines in writing that such plan provides a benefit 
to the species for which critical habitat is proposed for 
designation.''
    There are no Department of Defense lands with a completed INRMP 
within the critical habitat designation, and therefore, no analysis of 
potential exclusions under section 4(a)(3) of the Act is necessary.

Application of Section 4(b)(2) of the Act

    Section 4(b)(2) of the Act states that the Secretary must designate 
or revise critical habitat on the basis of the best available 
scientific data after taking into consideration the economic impact, 
national security impact, and any other relevant impact of specifying 
any particular area as critical habitat. The Secretary may exclude an 
area from critical habitat if he determines that the benefits of such 
exclusion outweigh the benefits of specifying such area as part of the 
critical habitat, unless he determines, based on the best scientific 
data available, that the failure to designate such area as critical 
habitat will result in the extinction of the species. In making that 
determination, the statute, as well as the legislative history, is 
clear that the Secretary has broad discretion regarding which factor(s) 
to use and how much weight to give to any factor.
    Under section 4(b)(2) of the Act, in considering whether to exclude 
a particular area from the designation, we must identify the benefits 
of including the specific area in the designation, identify the 
benefits of excluding the specific area from the designation, and 
determine whether the benefits of exclusion outweigh the benefits of 
inclusion. If, based on this analysis, we determine that the benefits 
of exclusion would outweigh the benefits of inclusion of an area, we 
can then exclude the area only if such exclusions would not result in 
the extinction of the species.
    Under section 4(b)(2) of the Act, we must consider all relevant 
impacts, including economic impacts. We consider a number of factors in 
a section 4(b)(2) analysis. For example, we consider whether there are 
lands owned or managed by the Department of Defense (DOD) where a 
national security impact might exist. We also consider whether the 
landowners have developed any conservation plans for the area, or 
whether there are conservation partnerships that would be encouraged by 
designation of, or exclusion from, critical habitat. In addition, we 
look at any tribal issues, and consider the government-to-government 
relationship of the United States with tribal entities.

[[Page 8646]]

We also consider any social impacts that might occur because of the 
designation.
    We determined that lands managed under the Maine Healthy Forest 
Reserve Program and lands managed by the State of Washington Department 
of Natural Resources (WADNR) should be excluded from the final 
designation based on the management plans that govern activities on 
these lands. Tribal lands have also been excluded from the final 
designation based on Secretarial Order 3206, ``American Indian Tribal 
Rights, Federal-Tribal Trust Responsibilities, and the Endangered 
Species Act'' (June 5, 1997).

Benefits of Designating Critical Habitat

    The process of designating critical habitat as described in the Act 
requires that the Service identify those lands on which are found the 
physical or biological features essential to the conservation of the 
species that may require special management considerations or 
protection, and those areas outside the geographical area occupied by 
the species at the time of listing that are essential to the 
conservation of the species. In identifying those lands, the Service 
must consider the recovery needs of the species, such that, on the 
basis of the best scientific and commercial data available at the time 
of designation, the habitat that is identified, if managed, could 
provide for the survival and recovery of the species.
    A critical habitat designation may be beneficial--identification of 
areas that are essential for the conservation of the species can, if 
managed, provide for the recovery of a species. The process of 
proposing and finalizing a critical habitat rule provides the Service 
with the opportunity to determine the physical and biological features 
essential to the conservation of the species within the geographical 
area occupied by the species at the time of listing, as well as to 
determine other areas essential for the conservation of the species. 
The designation process includes peer review and public comment on the 
identified physical and biological features and essential areas. This 
process is valuable to land owners and managers in developing 
conservation or management plans for identified areas, as well as any 
other occupied habitat or suitable habitat that may not have been 
included in the Service's determination of essential habitat.
    A critical habitat designation may provide a regulatory benefit. 
The consultation provisions under section 7(a)(2) of the Act constitute 
the regulatory benefits of critical habitat. As discussed above, 
Federal agencies must consult on discretionary actions that may affect 
critical habitat and must avoid destroying or adversely modifying 
critical habitat. Federal agencies must also consult on discretionary 
actions that may affect a listed species and refrain from undertaking 
actions that are likely to jeopardize the continued existence of such 
species. The analysis of effects to critical habitat is a separate and 
different analysis from that of the effects to the species. Therefore, 
any difference in outcomes of these two analyses represents the 
regulatory benefit of critical habitat. For some species, and in some 
locations, the outcome of these analyses will be similar, because 
effects on habitat will often also result in effects on the species. 
However, the regulatory standard of impacts to the species, and impacts 
to critical habitat, are different.
    An analysis of effects on the species requires a determination of 
whether the impact will jeopardize the species' survival; an analysis 
of effects to critical habitat requires a determination of whether the 
impact will adversely modify the habitat in a way that will affect both 
the conservation of the species, and its recovery. This difference in 
regulatory standards was emphasized in the Ninth Circuit's decision in 
Gifford Pinchot Task Force v. FWS (9th Cir. 2004). Therefore, critical 
habitat designations may provide regulatory benefits additional to the 
listing of a species that focus on recovery of the species.
    Two limitations to the regulatory effect of critical habitat exist. 
First, a section 7(a)(2) consultation is required only where an action 
is authorized, funded, or carried out by any Federal agency; if there 
is no Federal action, the designation of private lands as critical 
habitat does not restrict any actions that destroy or adversely modify 
critical habitat. Second, the designation only limits destruction or 
adverse modification. By its nature, the prohibition on adverse 
modification is designed to ensure that the conservation role and 
function of those areas that contain the physical and biological 
features essential to the conservation of the species or of unoccupied 
areas that are essential for the conservation of the species are not 
appreciably reduced. Critical habitat designation alone, however, does 
not require property owners to undertake affirmative actions to promote 
the recovery of the species.
    Once an agency determines that consultation under section 7(a)(2) 
of the Act is necessary, the process may conclude informally if a 
proposed Federal action is not likely to adversely affect critical 
habitat. However, if it is determined through informal consultation 
that adverse impacts are likely to occur, the Federal agency initiates 
formal consultation. Formal consultation concludes when we issue a 
biological opinion on whether the proposed Federal action is likely to 
result in destruction or adverse modification of critical habitat, or 
result in jeopardy to the species.
    A biological opinion that concludes no destruction or adverse 
modification of critical habitat will occur as a result of the action 
may contain discretionary conservation recommendations to minimize 
adverse effects to the physical and biological features essential to 
the conservation of the species. We only suggest reasonable and prudent 
alternatives to the proposed Federal action only when our biological 
opinion results in an adverse modification determination.
    As stated above, the designation of critical habitat does not 
require that any management or recovery actions take place on the lands 
included in the designation. Even in cases where consultation has been 
initiated under section 7(a)(2) of the Act, the end result of 
consultation is to avoid jeopardy to the species and/or adverse 
modification of its critical habitat, but not necessarily to manage 
critical habitat or institute recovery actions on critical habitat. 
Conversely, voluntary conservation efforts implemented through 
management plans institute proactive actions over the lands they 
encompass and are often put in place to remove or reduce known threats 
to a species or its habitat; therefore implementing recovery actions.
    We believe that, in many instances, the benefit of critical habitat 
designation is low compared to the conservation benefit that can be 
achieved through conservation efforts or management plans, especially 
when the likelihood of a Federal action occurring is low. The 
conservation achieved through implementing Habitat Conservation Plans 
(HCPs), Safe Harbor Agreements, or experimental populations established 
under section 10 of the Act or other habitat management plans or 
agreements is typically greater than what we achieve through multiple 
project-by-project, section 7(a)(2) consultations involving 
consideration of critical habitat. Management plans may commit 
resources to implement long-term management and protection to 
particular habitat for at least one and possibly additional listed or 
sensitive species. Section 7(a)(1) commits Federal agencies to 
utilizing their authorities in furtherance of the purposes of the Act,

[[Page 8647]]

and in carrying out conservation of listed species. Beyond that, 
Section 7(a)(2) consultations commit Federal agencies to preventing 
adverse modification of critical habitat caused by a particular 
project, and not to providing conservation or long-term benefits to 
areas not affected by the proposed project. Implementation of an HCP, 
management plan, or agreement that considers enhancement or recovery as 
the management standard may often provide as much or more benefit than 
a consultation for critical habitat designation.
    Critical habitat designation may provide educational benefits. 
Designation of critical habitat serves to educate landowners, State and 
local governments, and the public regarding the potential conservation 
value of an area. This helps focus and promote conservation efforts by 
other parties by clearly delineating areas of high conservation value 
for the affected species. In general, critical habitat designation 
always has educational benefits; however, in some cases it may be 
redundant with other educational effects. For example, HCPs have 
significant public input and may largely duplicate the educational 
benefits of a critical habitat designation. Including lands in critical 
habitat also would inform State agencies and local governments about 
areas that could be conserved under State laws or local ordinances.

Benefits of Excluding Non-Federal Lands With Conservation Partnerships

    Most federally listed species in the United States will not recover 
without the cooperation of non-Federal landowners. More than 60 percent 
of the United States is privately owned (National Wilderness Institute 
1995), and at least 80 percent of endangered or threatened species 
occur either partially or solely on private lands (Crouse et al. 2002, 
p. 720). Stein et al. (1995, p. 400) found that only about 12 percent 
of listed species were found almost exclusively on Federal lands (90 to 
100 percent of their known occurrences restricted to Federal lands) and 
that 50 percent of federally listed species are not known to occur on 
Federal lands at all.
    Given the distribution of listed species with respect to land 
ownership, conservation of listed species in many parts of the United 
States is dependent upon working partnerships with a wide variety of 
entities and the voluntary cooperation of many non-Federal landowners 
(Wilcove and Chen 1998; Crouse et al. 2002; James 2002). Building 
partnerships and promoting voluntary cooperation of landowners are 
essential to our understanding the status of species on non-Federal 
lands, and necessary for us to implement recovery actions such as 
reintroducing listed species and restoring and protecting habitat.
    Many non-Federal landowners derive satisfaction from contributing 
to endangered species recovery. We promote these private-sector efforts 
through the Department of the Interior's Cooperative Conservation 
philosophy. Conservation agreements with non-Federal landowners (e.g., 
HCPs, safe harbor agreements) enhance species conservation by extending 
species protections beyond those available through section 7(a)(2) 
consultations. In the past decade, we have encouraged non-Federal 
landowners to enter into conservation agreements, based on the view 
that we can achieve greater species conservation on non-Federal land 
through such partnerships than we can through regulatory methods (61 FR 
63854, December 2, 1996).
    Many private landowners, however, are wary of the possible 
consequences of attracting endangered species to their property. 
Mounting evidence suggests that some regulatory actions by the Federal 
Government, while well-intentioned and required by law, can (under 
certain circumstances) have unintended negative consequences for the 
conservation of species on private lands (Wilcove et al. 1996; Bean 
2002; Conner and Mathews 2002; James 2002; Koch 2002; Brook et al. 
2003). Many landowners fear a decline in their property value due to 
real or perceived restrictions on land-use options where threatened or 
endangered species are found. Consequently, harboring endangered 
species is viewed by many landowners as a liability. This perception 
results in anti-conservation incentives, because maintaining habitats 
that harbor endangered species represents a risk to future economic 
opportunities (Main et al. 1999; Brook et al. 2003).
    According to some researchers, the designation of critical habitat 
on private lands significantly reduces the likelihood that landowners 
will support and carry out conservation actions (Main et al. 1999; Bean 
2002; Brook et al. 2003). The magnitude of this outcome is greatly 
amplified in situations where active management measures (such as 
reintroduction, fire management, control of invasive species) are 
necessary for species conservation (Bean 2002). We believe that the 
judicious exclusion of specific areas of non-federally owned lands from 
critical habitat designations can contribute to species recovery and 
provide a superior level of conservation.
    The purpose of designating critical habitat is to contribute to the 
conservation of threatened and endangered species and the ecosystems 
upon which they depend. The outcome of the designation, triggering 
regulatory requirements for actions funded, authorized, or carried out 
by Federal agencies under section 7(a)(2) of the Act, can sometimes be 
counterproductive to its intended purpose on non-Federal lands. Thus, 
the benefits of excluding areas that are covered by effective 
partnerships or other conservation commitments can often be high.

Benefits of Excluding Lands With HCPs or Other Management Plans From 
Critical Habitat

    The benefit of excluding lands with approved HCPs from critical 
habitat designation includes relieving landowners, communities, and 
counties of any additional regulatory burden that might be imposed by 
critical habitat. Many HCPs take years to develop, and upon completion, 
are consistent with recovery objectives for listed species that are 
covered within the plan area. Many conservation plans also provide 
conservation benefits to unlisted sensitive species. Imposing an 
additional regulatory review as a result of the designation of critical 
habitat may undermine conservation efforts and partnerships designed to 
proactively protect species to ensure that listing under the Act will 
not be necessary. Our experience in implementing the Act has found that 
designation of critical habitat within the boundaries of management 
plans that provide conservation measures for a species is a 
disincentive to many entities which are either currently developing 
such plans, or contemplating doing so in the future, because one of the 
incentives for undertaking conservation is greater ease of permitting 
where listed species will be affected. Addition of a new regulatory 
requirement would remove a significant incentive for undertaking the 
time and expense of management planning. In fact, designating critical 
habitat in areas covered by a pending HCP or conservation plan could 
result in the loss of some species' benefits if participants abandon 
the planning process, in part because of the strength of the perceived 
additional regulatory compliance that such designation would entail. 
The time and cost of regulatory compliance for a critical habitat 
designation do not have to be quantified for them to be perceived as an 
additional Federal regulatory burden

[[Page 8648]]

sufficient to discourage continued participation in developing plans 
targeting listed species' conservation.
    A related benefit of excluding lands covered by approved HCPs from 
critical habitat designation is the unhindered, continued ability it 
gives us to seek new partnerships with future plan participants, 
including States, counties, local jurisdictions, conservation 
organizations, and private landowners, which together can implement 
conservation actions that we would be unable to accomplish otherwise. 
We have found that potential participants are not inclined to 
participate in such management plans when we designate critical habitat 
within the area that would be covered by such a management plan, thus 
having a negative effect on our ability to establish new partnerships 
to develop these plans, particularly plans that address landscape-level 
conservation of species and habitats. By excluding these lands, we 
preserve our current partnerships and encourage additional conservation 
actions in the future.
    We also note that permit issuance in association with HCP 
applications require consultation under section 7(a)(2) of the Act, 
which would include the review the effects of all HCP-covered 
activities that might adversely impact the species under a jeopardy 
standard, including possibly significant habitat modification (see 
definition of ``harm'' at 50 CFR 17.3), even without the critical 
habitat designation. In addition, all other Federal actions that may 
affect the listed species would still require consultation under 
section 7(a)(2) of the Act, and we would review these actions for 
possibly significant habitat modification in accordance with the 
definition of ``harm'' referenced above.

Tribal Lands Excluded From Lynx Critical Habitat

    Tribal lands included in the proposed designation were those of the 
Houlton Band of Maliseet Indians, Aroostook Band of Micmac Indians, 
Passamaquoddy Tribe, and Penobscot Indian Nation in Maine (Unit 1), 
Grand Portage Indian Reservation and Vermillion Lake Indian Reservation 
in Minnesota (Unit 2), and the Flathead Indian Reservation in Montana 
(Unit 3). In the proposed rule, we requested comments on whether Tribal 
lands in the Northern Rockies, Maine, and Minnesota need to be included 
pursuant to Executive Order 3206. The amount of Tribal lands proposed 
was relatively small in size (totaling approximately 224 km2 
(86.3 mi2) in Maine, 203 km2 (78.2 
mi2) in Minnesota, and 957 km2 (369.4 
mi2) in Montana). We contacted and met with a number of 
Tribes to discuss the proposed designation, and we also received 
comments from numerous Tribes requesting that their lands not be 
designated as critical habitat because of their sovereign rights, in 
addition to concerns about economic impacts and the effect on their 
ability to manage natural resources.

Benefits of Inclusion

    The primary benefit of including Tribal lands in the lynx critical 
habitat designation would be education that could be exchanged on land 
management methods that would benefit the species.
    Potentially, some activities could be authorized, funded, or 
carried out by a Federal agency, which would require consultation and 
perhaps action modification to ensure that the physical and biological 
features essential to lynx are not destroyed or adversely modified.

Benefits of Exclusion

    Tribal lands are small in size relative to the large landscape 
required to sustain the lynx population in these areas. The larger 
landscape in Maine is comprised of lands managed for commercial 
forestry, and in Minnesota and Montana the larger landscape is managed 
by the USFS, which revised its forest plans to address the needs for 
lynx. Therefore, although these Tribal lands support lynx habitat and 
the PCE, they have a minor role in lynx conservation compared to the 
commercial forestlands in Maine and National Forest lands in Minnesota 
and Montana. Due to the management plans and practices that are 
designed to avoid adverse effects to lynx and lynx habitat, and that 
are already in place on Tribal lands, it is highly unlikely that 
activities approaching the threshold of adverse modification of 
critical habitat would occur.
    Secretarial Order 3206, ``American Indian Tribal Rights, Federal-
Tribal Trust Responsibilities, and the Endangered Species Act'' (June 
5, 1997) states that, ``Critical habitat shall not be designated in 
such areas unless it is determined essential to conserve a listed 
species''. The President's memorandum of April 29, 1994, ``Government-
to-Government Relations with Native American Tribal Governments'' (59 
FR 22951); Executive Order 13175 ``Consultation and Coordination with 
Indian Tribal Governments;'' and the relevant provision of the 
Departmental Manual of the Department of the Interior (512 DM 2) also 
emphasize that Tribal lands should be evaluated to determine whether 
their inclusion in a critical habitat designation is essential to the 
species. Therefore, we believe that fish, wildlife, and other natural 
resources on Tribal lands are better managed under Tribal authorities, 
policies, and programs than through Federal regulation wherever 
possible and practicable. Such designation is often viewed by Tribes as 
an unwanted intrusion into Tribal self governance, thus compromising 
the government-to-government relationship essential to achieving our 
mutual goals of managing for healthy ecosystems upon which the 
viability of threatened and endangered species populations depend.
    Exclusion of Tribal lands may be warranted because Tribes are 
already committed to conserving lynx. Through Federal grant programs, 
the Passamaquoddy Tribe is conducting surveys and habitat models for 
lynx and snowshoe hare, the Houlton Band of Maliseet Indians is 
conducting lynx surveys, the Grand Portage Tribe is assessing lynx 
habitat on reservation lands, and lynx habitat is protected through a 
comprehensive conservation plan on the Flathead Reservation in Montana. 
Information from these efforts will be used to inform management plans 
or strategies to promote the conservation of lynx on Tribal lands. 
Additionally, we received general comments from Tribes voicing their 
commitment to ensuring that lynx remain a viable part of the ecosystem.

Benefits of Exclusion Outweigh Benefits of Inclusion

    We believe that conservation of lynx can be achieved on Tribal 
lands within the critical habitat units through the cooperation of 
Tribes, and without designating them as critical habitat. The large 
area of the lynx critical habitat designation is sufficient to conserve 
the species without the addition of Tribal lands. Therefore, Tribal 
lands are not essential to the conservation of the species, and Tribal 
lands in Units 1, 2, and 3 have not been designated as critical habitat 
pursuant to section 4(b)(2) of the Act.
    In addition to the fact that Tribal lands are not essential to 
lynx, the management plans and activities being implemented on Tribal 
lands are likely to ensure continued conservation of lynx. Given the 
importance of our government-to-government relationship with Tribes, 
the benefit of maintaining our commitment to the Executive Order by 
excluding these lands outweighs the benefit of including them in 
critical habitat.
    Exclusion of Tribal lands from the final designation of critical 
habitat for the lynx will not result in the extinction of the species 
because the Houlton Band

[[Page 8649]]

of Maliseet Indians, Aroostook Band of Micmac Indians, Passamaquoddy 
Tribe, Penobscot Indian Nation, Grand Portage Indians, Vermillion Lake 
Indians, and Flathead Indian Reservation Tribes implement programs for 
the conservation of the species, and physical and biological features 
essential to it, on occupied areas. Moreover, the jeopardy standard of 
section 7(a)(2) of the Act and routine implementation of conservation 
measures through the section 7 process also provide assurances that the 
species will not go extinct. The protections afforded to the lynx under 
the jeopardy standard will remain in place for the areas proposed for 
exclusion from revised critical habitat.

Exclusions Under Section 4(b)(2) of the Act

    The Secretary can consider the existence of conservation agreements 
and other land management plans with private, State, and Tribal 
entities when making decisions under section 4(b)(2) of the Act. The 
Secretary may also consider voluntary partnerships and conservation 
plans, and weigh the implementation and effectiveness of these against 
that of designation. Consideration of relevant impacts of designation 
or exclusion under section 4(b)(2) may include, but is not limited to, 
any of the following factors: (1) Whether the plan provides specific 
information on how it protects the species and the physical and 
biological features, and whether the plan is at a geographic scope 
commensurate with the species; (2) whether the plan is complete and 
will be effective at conserving and protecting of the physical and 
biological features; (3) whether a reasonable expectation exists that 
conservation management strategies and actions will be implemented, 
that those responsible for implementing the plan are capable of 
achieving the objectives, that an implementation schedule exists, and 
that adequate funding exists; (4) whether the plan provides assurances 
that the conservation strategies and measures will be effective (i.e., 
identifies biological goals, has provisions for reporting progress, and 
is of a duration sufficient to implement the plan); (5) whether the 
plan has a monitoring program or adaptive management to ensure that the 
conservation measures are effective; (6) the degree to which the record 
supports a conclusion that a critical habitat designation would impair 
the benefits of the plan; (7) the extent of public participation; (8) 
NEPA compliance; (9) demonstrated track record of implementation 
success; (10) level of public benefits derived from encouraging 
collaborative efforts and encouraging private and local conservation 
efforts; and (11) the effect designation would have on partnerships. 
Our analysis of exclusions that landowners requested is included below.

Unit 1 (Maine)

Maine Healthy Forest Reserve Program

    In 2003, Congress passed the Healthy Forest Restoration Act. Title 
V of this Act designates a Healthy Forest Reserve Program (HFRP) with 
objectives to: (1) Promote the recovery of threatened and endangered 
species, (2) improve biodiversity, and (3) enhance carbon 
sequestration. In 2006, Congress provided the first funding for the 
HFRP, and Maine, Arkansas, and Mississippi were chosen as pilot states 
to receive funding through their respective Natural Resources 
Conservation Service (NRCS) State offices. NRCS and the Service 
determined that the most efficient way to complete Section 7 
consultations and to deliver regulatory assurances required by the HFRP 
was by developing programmatic biological opinions for each of the 
participating States. A programmatic biological opinion provides a 
framework for determining effects of the action and quantifying 
incidental take, and describes baseline conditions, the net 
conservation benefit, and terms and conditions when reviewing projects 
selected for future funding. Based on a successful pilot program, in 
2008, the HFRP was reauthorized as part of the Farm Bill.
    In 2006 and 2007, NRCS offered the HFRP to landowners in the 
proposed Canada lynx critical habitat unit in Maine to promote 
development of Canada lynx forest management plans. The value of such 
planning to lynx recovery is identified in the Service's Canada Lynx 
Recovery Outline (USFWS 2005):
     Objective 1: Retain adequate habitat of sufficient quality 
to support the long-term persistence of lynx populations within each of 
the identified core areas and Recovery Action; and
     Recovery Action 1. Establish management commitments in 
core areas that will provide for adequate quality and quantity of 
habitat such that there is a reasonable expectation that persistent 
lynx populations can be supported in each of the core areas for at 
least the next 100 years. On non-Federal lands in the core areas, 
develop and implement best management practices and long-term 
management agreements for lynx with key State, private, or Tribal 
forest managers.
    Five landowners are enrolled in the HFRP--the Passamaquoddy Tribe 
(27,414 ac; 11,094 ha), The Nature Conservancy (182,086 ac; 73,688 ha), 
the Forest Society of Maine as conservation easement holder for the 
Merriweather LLC-West Branch Project (284,276 ac; 115,042 ha), Katahdin 
Forest Products (136,550 ac; 55,260 ha), and Elliotsville Plantation 
Inc. (54,327 ac; 21,985 ha). Collectively, the landowners have signed 
contracts (with NRCS) committing to developing lynx forest management 
plans on 684,653 ac (277,069 ha), which is 10 percent of the 6.8 
million ac (2.7 million ha) of the proposed critical habitat in Maine. 
Lynx maintain large home ranges; therefore, forest management plans at 
large landscape scales will provide substantive recovery benefits to 
lynx.
    NRCS requires that lynx forest management plans must be based on 
the Service's ``Canada Lynx Habitat Management Guidelines for Maine'' 
(McCollough 2007, entire). These guidelines were developed from the 
best available science on lynx management for Maine and have been 
revised as new research results became available. The guidelines 
require maintenance of prescribed hare densities that have resulted in 
reproducing lynx populations in Maine. The guidelines are:
    1. Avoid upgrading or paving dirt or gravel roads traversing lynx 
habitat. Avoid construction of new high speed/high traffic volume roads 
in lynx habitat. Desired outcome: Avoid fragmenting potential lynx 
habitat with high traffic/high-speed roads.
    2. Maintain through time at least one lynx habitat unit of 35,000 
ac (14,164 ha) (~1.5 townships) or more for every 200,000 ac (80,937 
ha) (~9 townships) of ownership. At any time, about 20 percent of the 
area in a lynx habitat unit should be in the optimal mid-regeneration 
conditions (see Guideline 3). Desired outcome: Create a landscape that 
will maintain a continuous presence of a mosaic of successional stages, 
especially mid-regeneration patches that will support resident lynx.
    3. Employ silvicultural methods that will create regenerating 
conifer-dominated stands 12-35 ft (3.7-10.7 m) in height with high stem 
density (7,000-15,000 stems/ac; 2,800-6,000 stems/ha) and horizontal 
cover above the average snow depth that will support greater than 2.7 
hares/ac (1.1 hares/ha). Desired outcome: Employ silvicultural 
techniques that create, maintain, or prolong use of stands by high 
populations of snowshoe hares.

[[Page 8650]]

    4. Maintain land in forest management. Development and associated 
activities should be consolidated to minimize direct and indirect 
impacts. Avoid development projects that occur across large areas, 
increase lynx mortality, fragment habitat, or result in barriers that 
affect lynx movements and dispersal. Desired outcome: Maintain the 
current amount and distribution of commercial forest land in northern 
Maine. Prevent forest fragmentation and barriers to movements. Avoid 
development that introduces new sources of lynx mortality.
    5. Encourage coarse woody debris for den sites by maintaining 
standing dead trees after harvest and leaving patches (at least .75 ac; 
.30 ha) of windthrow or insect damage. Desired outcome: Retain coarse 
woody debris for denning sites.
    Notably, HFRP forest management plans must provide a net 
conservation benefit for lynx, which will be achieved by employing the 
lynx guidelines, identifying baseline habitat conditions, and meeting 
NRCS standards for forest plans. Plans must meet NRCS HFRP criteria and 
guidelines and comply with numerous environmental standards. NEPA 
compliance will be completed for each plan. NRCS held public 
informational sessions about the HFRP and advertised the availability 
of funds. Plans must be reviewed and approved by NRCS with assistance 
from the Service. The details of the plans are proprietary and will not 
be made public per NRCS policy.
    Plans must be developed for a forest rotation (70 years) and 
include a decade-by-decade assessment of the location and anticipated 
condition of lynx habitat on the ownership. Some landowners are 
developing plans exclusively for lynx, and others are combining lynx 
management (umbrella species for young forest) with pine marten 
(umbrella species for mature forest) and other biodiversity objectives. 
There will be broad public benefits derived from these plans, including 
benefits to many species of wildlife that share habitat with the lynx. 
Most landowners are writing their own plans. The Nature Conservancy, 
however, contracted with the University of Maine, Department of 
Wildlife Ecology to develop a lynx-pine marten plan that will serve as 
a model for lynx/biodiversity forest planning, and be shared with other 
northern Maine landowners.
    Landowners who are enrolled with NRCS commit to a 10-year contract. 
Landowners must complete their lynx forest management plans within 2 
years of enrollment. The first plans will be completed in fall 2009. 
The majority (50 to 60 percent) of HFRP funds are withheld until plans 
are completed. By year 7, landowners must demonstrate on-the-ground 
implementation of their plan. NRCS will monitor and enforce compliance 
with the 10-year contracts. At the conclusion of the 10-year cost share 
contract, we anticipate that Safe Harbor Agreements or other agreements 
to provide regulatory assurances will be developed by all landowners as 
an incentive to continue implementing the plans.
    We completed a programmatic biological opinion for the HFRP in 
2006, that assesses the overall effects of the program on lynx habitat 
and on individual lynx, and provides the required incidental take 
coverage. Separate biological opinions will be developed under this 
programmatic opinion for each of the five enrollees. These tiered 
opinions will document environmental baseline, net conservation 
benefits, and incidental take for each landowner. If additional HFRP 
funding is made available to Maine in the future, new enrollees will be 
tiered under this programmatic opinion. This programmatic opinion will 
be revised as new information is obtained, or if new rare, threatened, 
or endangered species are considered for HFRP funding.
    Commitments to the HFRP are strengthened by several other 
conservation efforts. The Nature Conservancy (TNC) land enrolled in the 
HFRP is also enrolled in the Forest Stewardship Council (FSC) forest 
certification program, which requires safeguards for threatened and 
endangered species. The Forest Society of Maine is under contract to 
manage a conservation easement held by the State of Maine on the 
Katahdin Forest Management lands, which is also enrolled in the HFRP. 
This easement requires that threatened and endangered species be 
protected and managed. The Forest Society of Maine also holds a 
conservation easement on the Merriweather LLC--West Branch property, 
which contains requirements that threatened and endangered species be 
protected and managed. These lands are also certified under the 
Sustainable Forestry Initiative (SFI) and FSC, which require that there 
be programs for threatened and endangered species. The Eliotsville 
Plantation, Inc. lands enrolled in the HFRP are held in a trust, which 
specifies the lands preserve wildlife species. The Passamaquoddy 
enrolled lands are managed as trust lands by the Bureau of Indian 
Affairs, and projects occurring on those lands are subject to NEPA 
review and section 7 consultation.

Benefits of Inclusion

    The primary benefit of including an area within a critical habitat 
designation is the protection provided by section 7(a)(2) of the Act, 
which directs Federal agencies to ensure that actions they authorize, 
fund, or carry out are not likely to jeopardize the continued existence 
of a threatened or endangered species and do not result in the 
destruction or adverse modification of critical habitat. Consultation 
has already occurred on these lands, and it included consideration of 
lynx habitat. The regulatory benefit of designating critical habitat on 
the HFRP lands would be minimal because there are few Federal actions 
to trigger the consultation provisions under section 7(a)(2) of the 
Act. Forestry activities are exempt from the Clean Water Act, and few 
landowners in Maine obtain Federal funding for projects on their lands. 
Since the lynx was listed in 2000, there have been two formal 
consultations on lynx in Maine (the HFRP biological opinion and a 
highway project) and about 73 informal consultations; however, there 
have been no consultations on Federal actions on The Nature 
Conservancy, West Branch Project, Elliotsville Plantation, Inc., and 
Katahdin Forest Management lands. The Passamaquoddy Tribe, through the 
Bureau of Indian Affairs, has informally consulted with the Service on 
four timber sales during this time period, resulting in determinations 
that the projects were not likely to adversely affect lynx because the 
harvests would create early successional habitat beneficial to lynx. 
Consultations in northern Maine have been mostly on small Federal 
actions (less than 15 ac; 6 ha) that have few consequences to lynx, 
which require large landscapes of 35,000 ac (14,164 ha) or more; 
therefore, the results of these informal consultations were that the 
projects would have no effect on lynx or would not likely adversely 
affect lynx.
    A potential benefit of critical habitat designation would be to 
signal the importance of these lands to Federal agencies, scientific 
organizations, State and local governments, and the public to encourage 
conservation efforts to benefit the lynx and its habitat. By 
publication of the proposed rule, we are educating the public of the 
location of core lynx habitat and areas most important for the recovery 
of this species. In addition, designation of critical habitat on HFRP 
enrollee lands could provide some educational benefit through the 
rulemaking process.

[[Page 8651]]

Benefits of Exclusion

    A Federal nexus on HFRP lands is rare, and development is unlikely 
because conservation easements exist on many of these lands. Section 
7(a)(2) review will not provide benefits to the physical and biological 
features essential to the conservation of lynx, because most Federal 
projects in northern Maine are small and will not benefit habitat at a 
geographic scale meaningful for lynx conservation. Therefore, the 
regulatory protection provided through the section 7(a)(2) process for 
critical habitat would minimal. The HFRP goes beyond the standard of 
adverse modification to provide a net conservation benefit. The 
conservation measures for the lynx included in the HFRP plans are 
affirmative obligations that address the physical and biological 
features, represent the best available science, and provide a net 
conservation benefit to the species by ensuring the quality and 
quantity of unfragmented lynx habitat on the landscape.
    Excluding these 684,653 acres of HFRP lands from critical habitat 
designation would help strengthen partnerships and promote other 
aspects of recovery for the lynx. Since the lynx was listed in 2000, it 
has been difficult for us to effectively address lynx conservation 
across the forest landscape in northern Maine because of the numerous 
private industrial forest landowners with whom coordination is 
required. HFRP contracts will contribute to the conservation of the 
physical and biological features essential to the conservation of the 
lynx in approximately 10 percent of the proposed critical habitat unit. 
Proactively developing conservation programs for lynx across large 
ownerships can be a more effective recovery strategy than project-by-
project planning in a landscape where a section 7 is rarely applicable. 
Lynx require large home ranges, and lynx and snowshoe hare habitat 
occurs in a habitat mosaic across the landscape that changes with time 
and space as the forests age or disturbances occur (e.g., insect 
outbreaks or timber management). The HFRP plans address landscape-level 
planning and actions for forestry-related activities within the context 
of lynx-specific guidelines, which can facilitate lynx recovery. The 
HFRP contracts operate under a programmatic biological opinion under 
section 7(a)(2), enabling a coordinated, multi-landowner approach to 
lynx conservation on private lands.
    HFRP contracts build on the ongoing partnership between the 
Service, Maine Department of Inland Fisheries and Wildlife, and the 
HFRP enrollees. The contracts provide assurances to the Service that 
individual landowners will address the habitat requirements of lynx and 
facilitate the consideration and implementation of lynx conservation 
needs at a broad landscape scale. Although the HFRP contracts are for 
10 years, lynx plans are required to address forest management for the 
next 70 years. Several incentives encourage enrollees to continue their 
plans after the conclusion of the 10-year contract:
     Enrollees will be offered Safe Harbor Agreements or other 
mechanisms to extend incidental take coverage and regulatory assurances 
beyond the 10 year period. Most of the enrollees are in forest 
certification programs and have conservation easements.
     HFRP plans meet the requirements of certification programs 
and easement requirements to document how they will manage for 
federally listed species.
     Future HFRP funding may be available to promote continued 
management on these lands.
     Landowners may be reimbursed at a graduated rate of up to 
100 percent for land put under conservation easements of 30-year and 
99-year duration.
    Most HFRP enrollees have a long track record of conservation in 
Maine. The Nature Conservancy has been working with us and other 
conservation partners since the 1970s. The Forest Society of Maine is a 
conservation easement holder in northern Maine, and has been working 
with us since the late 1990s. We have a long partnership with the 
Passamaquoddy Tribe that includes consulting on Tribal silvicultural 
projects, cooperative research, review of forest management plans, and 
implementation of Service conservation recommendations. Many of the 
HFRP enrollees contribute as members to the University of Maine 
Cooperative Forest Research Unit (CFRU). The CFRU has funded numerous 
lynx and snowshoe hare studies that have advanced our understanding of 
lynx population dynamics and habitat relationships. Landowners have 
facilitated research and surveys by allowing access to their lands and 
logistical support. The positive experiences from HFRP enrollment will 
promote continued support for funding and continued lynx research.
    Some of the enrolled lands could be sold, and it may be argued that 
new owners may not participate in long-term lynx management. However, 
new landowners could benefit from the incidental take coverage offered 
by HFRP or future Safe Harbor Agreements as a result of HFRP plans. 
Lands under conservation easements would require planning for federally 
listed species, and new landowners would have an incentive to continue 
to implement plans to meet their easement requirements. Many of the 
owners have SFI or FSC certifications, which have similar requirements 
for State and federally listed species planning. Therefore, substantial 
incentives exist for a new landowner to honor existing lynx management 
plans.
    Some landowners do not trust that the regulatory effect of critical 
habitat designation is limited, and they do not want an additional 
layer of Federal regulation on their private property. They are 
concerned that additional State regulations or local restrictions may 
be imposed as a result of the designation of critical habitat. HFRP 
enrollees are some of the largest landowners in Maine. We need the 
cooperation and partnership of these landowners to achieve recovery of 
lynx in Maine. If designation causes their alienation, it would be 
counterproductive to designate on their lands.

Benefits of Exclusion Outweigh Benefits of Inclusion

    We believe there would be minimal benefit in designating lands 
enrolled in the HFRP as critical habitat for the lynx within Unit 1. We 
evaluated the proposed exclusion of approximately 684,653 ac (277,069 
ha) of lands enrolled in the HFRP. Inclusion of these lands would 
result in few benefits; minimal consultation under section 7, and 
minimal education related to lynx conservation would be realized.
    The HFRP lynx management plans will be effective and directly 
address the physical and biological features essential to lynx by 
incorporating the Service's lynx conservation guidelines. These 
conservation actions and management for the lynx and the physical and 
biological features essential to it within large landscapes exceed any 
conservation value provided as a result of regulatory protections that 
have been or may be afforded through critical habitat designation. The 
exclusion of these lands from critical habitat will help preserve 
partnerships developed with the landowners. Most of the HFRP enrollees 
have a demonstrated track record of working with the Service and 
helping to fund lynx research. The HFRP plans will have a high 
probability of implementation due to the 10-year contract with NRCS and 
significant incentives (e.g., Safe Harbor, requirements of forest 
certification and conservation easements, continued funding and 
possibly additional funds),

[[Page 8652]]

and could continue for a 70-year period. Funding is assured because 
development of lynx forest management plans and initial implementation 
is being paid for by NRCS. HFRP plans provide a high degree of public 
benefit for lynx and other wildlife that share their habitat.
    The benefits of excluding HFRP lands from critical habitat outweigh 
the benefits of retaining these lands as critical habitat. Educational 
benefits can be realized by designation of critical habitat 
designation, which informs the public via the rulemaking process. 
However, education has already been realized through the HFRP. The best 
scientific information regarding the long-term conservation of lynx is 
being used and shared with landowners to assist in the development of 
their plans. We participate in the delivery of this information. We 
will continue to review Federal actions under Section 7(a)(2) of the 
Act, although the only likely Federal action we foresee on the lands 
enrolled in HFRP will be on the consultation required for development 
of the individual plans. A programmatic biological opinion has already 
been prepared and it addresses lynx habitat in detail.
    The HFRP provides an opportunity for us to work in partnership with 
five landowners across several landscape scales and ownerships. The 
HFRP demonstrates that our lynx management guidelines are a flexible, 
outcome-based approach to addressing lynx recovery in northern Maine 
that can be adapted to a variety of landowner types and landscapes. The 
HFRP lynx forest management plans will employ state-of-the-art habitat 
mapping, apply the best available science, and have a high likelihood 
of being carried out. We believe that the benefits of excluding HFRP 
enrollee lands outweigh the benefits of inclusion, particularly because 
these landowners have committed to developing long-term lynx habitat 
plans and on-the-ground management affecting large landscapes.

Exclusion Will Not Result in Extinction of the Species

    Exclusion of 684,653 ac (277,069 ha) from Unit 1 of this revised 
critical habitat designation will not result in the extinction of the 
species, because the HFRP plans provide for the conservation of the 
species and the physical and biological features essential to it. The 
jeopardy standard of section 7(a)(2) of the Act and routine 
implementation of conservation measures through the section 7 process 
also provide assurances that the species will not go extinct. The 
protections afforded the lynx under the jeopardy standard will remain 
in place for the areas excluded from revised critical habitat.

Maine Forest Products Council Conservation Partnership Agreement

    The Maine Forest Products Council (MFPC) is a trade organization 
representing the Maine forest products community, whose 350-member 
companies include landowners, loggers, truckers, paper mills, and 
lumber processors. The MFPC advises its members on Federal and State 
regulatory issues. The 28 MFPC private commercial forest landowners in 
the area of critical habitat own 74 percent of the lands proposed for 
lynx critical designation in Maine. Other participants in the 
partnership include Maine Department of Inland Fisheries and Wildlife 
(MDIFW) and the Service. Beginning with our first proposal to designate 
critical habitat for lynx in 2006, MFPC submitted draft conservation 
agreements with the intent to document its members' ongoing partnership 
with wildlife agencies responsible for lynx management and 
conservation.
    We assessed the benefits of inclusion and the benefits of exclusion 
of MFPC members' lands, based on the most recently submitted draft 
conservation agreement, and determined that these lands do not meet our 
criteria for exclusion from critical habitat. Our analysis follows 
below.
    The MFPC and its landowner members have supported lynx recovery by 
allowing researchers from MDIFW, the Service, and the University of 
Maine (UMaine) access to their private property to conduct lynx surveys 
and research, and by providing logistical assistance (e.g., lodging, 
field maps) to the lynx researchers. Thirteen of the 28 landowners are 
contributing members to UMaine's Cooperative Forestry Research Unit 
(CFRU). Since 2000, the CFRU members have contributed more than 
$515,000 to support 9 research projects assessing the effects of forest 
management on snowshoe hares and Canada lynx. We have supported many of 
these projects, which form a large part of the scientific basis for 
lynx recovery in Maine. This partnership reinforces MFPC member funding 
and support for continued lynx research through CFRU.
    Under a draft partnership agreement, the MFPC would encourage 
funding for the UMaine CFRU to complete landscape-level lynx habitat 
mapping across MFPC member lands using satellite imagery and state-of-
the art lynx and hare habitat models developed by UMaine. MFPC would 
also encourage funding for updates to the habitat maps, and members 
would assist with verification of the mapping product. At this time, 
high-quality maps of lynx habitat across mixed ownerships do not exist. 
Mapping of this quality would enable landscape-level habitat analyses 
and planning for lynx, snowshoe hare and many other species. Mapping 
would document the shifting mosaic of habitat, guide opportunities for 
management, and project future habitat conditions under different 
silvicultural scenarios.
    The Draft MFPC Agreement would enable the MFPC, MDIFW and the 
Service to collaboratively develop multi-species landscape-scale 
planning guidelines that would assist in the development of management 
recommendations for lynx in relation to other wildlife species. MFPC 
participation is important to ensure that guidelines are acceptable to 
forest industries. These guidelines would be a useful resource for the 
land managers to inform their management decisions for the conservation 
of lynx and other wildlife.
    The Draft MFPC Agreement would provide educational benefits by 
establishing mechanisms to broaden the understanding of lynx habitat 
management and disseminating the best available scientific information 
on lynx throughout all levels of the forest products industry. Existing 
training programs for foresters, loggers, and land managers would be 
expanded to include lynx education components. Web sites, newsletters, 
professional meetings and forums would provide information on lynx 
research and management. The Draft MFPC Agreement would document a 
management process to review research results and facilitate 
dissemination of results to Maine's forest managers. The Draft MFPC 
Agreement would create an annual lynx conservation workshop and 
experimental testing of silvicultural techniques. An annual report 
would be provided to all partners summarizing lynx conservation 
activities and achievements. This form of education and training is 
anticipated to result in a substantial improvement in the understanding 
of lynx habitat requirements among members of the forest products 
industry. Education is generally considered a benefit of designating 
critical habitat in that it educates the public and others about the 
potential conservation value of an area.
    The Draft MFPC Agreement could help achieve lynx recovery, as 
identified in the Service's Canada Lynx Recovery Outline (USFWS 2005); 
however,

[[Page 8653]]

actions not made mandatory in the Draft Agreement would have to be 
completed to realize some of the conservation benefits identified in 
the Recovery Outline, which include:
     Objective 1: Retain adequate habitat of sufficient quality 
to support the long-term persistence of lynx populations within each of 
the identified core areas and Recovery Action, and
     Recovery Action 1. Establish management commitments in 
core areas that will provide for adequate quality and quantity of 
habitat such that there is a reasonable expectation that persistent 
lynx populations can be supported in each of the core areas for at 
least the next 100 years. On non-Federal lands in the core areas, 
develop and implement best management practices and long-term 
management agreements for lynx with key State, private, or Tribal 
forest managers.
     Recovery Action 2. Maintain baseline inventories of lynx 
habitat in each core area, monitoring changes in structure and the 
distribution of habitat components.
     Recovery Action 4. Identify habitat facilitating movement 
between each core area and lynx populations in Canada.
     Recovery Action 6. Identify population and habitat 
limiting factors for lynx in the contiguous United States. Continue and 
complete studies necessary to gather basic information on the 
ecological requirements, distribution, population size, and trends in 
each of the core areas and as possible for secondary areas. Identify 
the risk to lynx populations posed by forest management techniques and 
human induced mortality from factors such as roads, trapping, and 
hunting. Address these factors as necessary to ensure the long-term 
persistence of lynx populations in core areas.
    Under the Draft MFPC Agreement, the parties would work 
collaboratively to improve lynx habitat management on industrial forest 
lands based on scientific research. Such measures might include 
development of landscape-scale habitat maps; experiments to evaluate 
the feasibility, practicality, and effectiveness of research 
recommendations; and development of multi-species landscape-scale 
planning guidelines. The Draft Agreement does not prescribe measures, 
however, for directly managing or protecting the physical and 
biological features essential to the conservation of lynx. The MFPC 
would work to support the implementation of management measures based 
on research if recommendations are operationally feasible, economically 
viable, and biologically meaningful.

Benefits of Inclusion

    The primary benefit of including the area addressed by the Draft 
MFPC Agreement within a critical habitat designation is the protection 
provided by section 7(a)(2) of the Act, which directs Federal agencies 
to ensure that actions they authorize, fund, or carry out are not 
likely to jeopardize the continued existence of a threatened or 
endangered species, and do not result in the destruction or adverse 
modification of critical habitat. The regulatory benefit of designating 
critical habitat in Maine is currently low, because few Federal actions 
trigger the consultation provisions under section 7(a)(2) of the Act. 
Forestry activities are exempt from the Clean Water Act, and few 
industrial forest landowners engage in activities that involve Federal 
funding or authorization. Since the lynx was listed in 2000, there have 
been two formal consultations on lynx in Maine (the HFRP biological 
opinion and a highway project) and about 73 informal consultations. 
Consultations in northern Maine have been mostly on small Federal 
actions (less than 15 ac; 6 ha) that have few consequences to lynx, 
which require large landscapes of 35,000 ac (14,164 ha) or more; 
therefore, the results of these informal consultations were that the 
project would have no effect on lynx or would not likely adversely 
affect lynx.
    At this time, we are aware of two proposals that may affect large 
landscapes on MFPC member lands and will trigger consultation under 
section 7(a)(2). In 2008, we initiated consultation with the Army Corps 
of Engineers on a large wind power project. In 2007, we provided 
comments as requested by the Maine Land Use Regulation Commission on a 
large-scale development project that would occur on a MFPC member's 
land in Unit 1--Plum Creek's Moosehead Concept Plan. This project 
included a request for a zoning change to allow development of 
approximately 1,000 house lots, 2 large resorts, and possibly wind 
power projects on up to 2,023 ha (5,000 ac) in critical habitat Unit 1. 
As mitigation, Plum Creek is offering a combination of fee title sale 
and a conservation easement on 174,015 ha (430,000 ac) of undeveloped 
lands. The easement would require that threatened and endangered 
species conservation be addressed as part of Plum Creek's Sustainable 
Forestry Initiative certification program. Aspects of wildlife and 
special areas management would be overseen by a Management Advisory 
Team, which would include representation from the Service. If the 
concept plan is approved by the State, projects requiring Federal 
permitting would likely be initiated within several years. We would 
review the Plum Creek projects under the concept plan through Section 7 
consultation with Army Corps of Engineers or other Federal permits or 
funding.
    Federal actions have occurred on MFPC lands, and because of this, 
it is possible that section 7 consultations will occur in the future. 
Although a Federal nexus on projects in this area is rare, designation 
of critical habitat could provide a conservation benefit for lynx 
habitat.
    A potential benefit of critical habitat designation would be to 
signal the importance of designated lands to Federal agencies, 
scientific organizations, State and local governments, and the public 
to encourage conservation efforts to benefit the lynx and its habitat. 
Critical habitat designation educates the public about the location of 
core lynx habitat and areas most important for the recovery of this 
species.
    The Draft MFPC Agreement could encourage members to support a 5-
year position at UMaine and CFRU (about $50,000 annually). The person 
in this position would help complete habitat mapping, which would 
require $300,000 to $500,000 of additional funds. This person would 
also coordinate the outreach and research specified in the Draft 
Agreement. However, this funding is not assured. CFRU dues paid by 
member landowners are needed to support the research commitments of the 
Draft MFPC Agreement, and not all MFPC members within critical habitat 
Unit 1 are contributing members of the CFRU. Plum Creek is the only 
MFPC member to potentially pledge funds ($6,000 annually for the next 5 
years). None of the other MFPC member companies have made funding 
commitments. No certainty exists for implementation of important 
aspects of the Draft MFPC Agreement.
    The Draft Agreement does not require specific land management 
actions to be taken by landowners. The MFPC landowners each manage 
their properties differently, and own different amounts of property in 
different stand conditions. The MFPC is an umbrella organization with 
no authority over its members, and can only encourage its members to 
voluntarily act to meet the guidelines in the Draft Agreement. 
Individual landowners would not be actual parties to the agreement. No 
commitment would be made through

[[Page 8654]]

the agreement to allow the Service access to member lands in order to 
monitor lynx or effects of management on lynx, and existing easements 
that MFPC relies on were not provided for review during this analysis. 
All of these factors indicate that benefits to lynx by excluding these 
lands are very speculative.
    We compared the HFRP, which we found met our criteria for exclusion 
under section 4(b)(2), with the MFPC Draft Agreement, which we found 
did not meet our criteria for exclusion. For instance, both 
conservation vehicles adopt a 10-year timeframe for required contracts; 
however contracts under the HFRP are binding and ramifications for 
breach exist, and the MFPC Agreement is voluntary with no consequences 
for termination, which could happen at any time. Additionally, the HFRP 
contemplates conversion of the 10-year contract to an easement, as 
discussed earlier. Participants in HFRP, like many MFPC members, are 
enrolled in forest certification programs. We find that participation 
in the certification programs demonstrates some commitment to 
responsible resource management; however, we were not provided with 
endangered species or lynx management plans, which are required under 
forest certification programs, to review. We could not evaluate the 
efficacy of the programs or potential benefits to the lynx or its 
habitat. The HRFP commitment is that contractually-bound parties will 
likely meet their obligations to provide lynx management plans. Because 
neither the MFPC, nor its Draft Agreement commit or bind its members in 
any manner, participation in a certification program, though laudable, 
is less relevant for our evaluation.

Benefits of Exclusion

    The Draft MFPC Agreement would commit partners to monitoring lynx 
habitat, contributing to lynx research, developing lynx management 
guidelines, promoting education, and conducting outreach across the 
lands of 28 corporate forest landowners. These commitments would 
strengthen partnerships and promote other aspects of recovery for the 
lynx. The Draft Agreement would have a duration of 10 years (extendable 
in 5-year increments); however, it would allow for unilateral 
termination. MFPC would prepare an annual report summarizing the 
actions taken to implement the agreement.
    Since the lynx was listed in 2000, it has been difficult for us to 
effectively address lynx conservation across the forest landscape in 
northern Maine because of the numerous private industrial forest 
landowners with whom coordination is required. It is important to 
proactively develop conservation programs for lynx across large 
landscapes. Lynx require large home ranges, and lynx and snowshoe hare 
habitat occurs in a habitat mosaic across the landscape that changes 
over time and space as the forests ages or disturbances occur to forest 
stands (e.g., insect outbreaks or timber management). Conservation 
easements (that restrict development) exist on approximately 809,374 ha 
(2,000,000 ac) in the area covered by the Draft MFPC Agreement. Some of 
the landowners have requirements to manage for federally listed species 
under forest certification programs.
    The Draft MFPC Agreement covers 2,036,378 ha (5,032,000 ac), 74 
percent of critical habitat Unit 1--an area larger than the State of 
New Jersey. The Draft Agreement could enable a coordinated, multi-
landowner approach to lynx conservation on these private lands. This 
opportunity would not occur under typical consultation scenarios. The 
Draft Agreement would provide an opportunity to engage nearly all of 
the large private landowners in a dialogue concerning the recovery 
needs of the lynx. The Draft MFPC Agreement could facilitate the 
consideration of voluntary lynx conservation actions at a landscape 
scale across land ownership boundaries.
    The conservation measures for lynx included in the Draft MFPC 
Agreement would support research needed to understand the effects of 
forest management in Maine on the physical and biological features 
essential to the conservation of lynx, provide a means to assess and 
monitor habitat, and provide an opportunity to develop management 
strategies for lynx and other wildlife species.
    The Draft MFPC Agreement could build on the ongoing partnership 
between the Service, MDIFW, UMaine, CFRU and other partners. The Draft 
MFPC Agreement would be in place for 10 years, but could be renewed. 
Several incentives, for MFPC landowners to maintain this partnership 
for a longer period of time, include:
     The Service (at considerable cost) could designate 
critical habitat if landowners did not live up to the terms of the 
Agreement or if the physical and biological features essential to lynx 
began to diminish.
     Some landowners cite the Draft MFPC Agreement as part of 
their lynx conservation program in order to meet the requirements of 
certification programs and easement requirements for managing for 
Federally listed species.
     Funding (e.g., HFRP) may be available as an incentive to 
promote development of individual lynx forest management plans.
    Some MFPC landowners have a track record of partnership with State 
and Federal conservation agencies in Maine. About half of the 28 
landowners contribute as members to the CFRU. MFPC landowners have 
enabled this research by allowing access to their lands and logistical 
support; access is crucial and could be terminated by landowners if 
critical habitat is designated on their lands. This Draft Agreement 
could reinforce the continued support of MFPC landowners for funding 
and continued lynx research through CFRU.
    Forest management on MFPC lands must meet the requirements of the 
Maine Forest Practices Act. This Act has resulted in the forest 
products industry changing to forestry methods (e.g., partial 
harvesting) that may be detrimental to creation of habitats that 
support high snowshoe hare densities. We are working with landowners 
and the Maine Forest Service to discuss the problems of the Maine 
Forest Practices Act and to encourage conservation measures that will 
benefit lynx.
    Some landowners do not trust that the regulatory effect of critical 
habitat designation is limited, and they do not want an additional 
layer of Federal regulation on their private property. They are 
concerned that additional State regulations or local restrictions may 
be imposed as a result of the designation of critical habitat. MFPC 
landowners manage the largest forest acreage in Maine; several own more 
than 404,686 ha (1 million ac). Maintaining the cooperation of these 
landowners would be helpful in achieving recovery of lynx in Maine. The 
MFPC has indicated that they will not provide many of the benefits 
described in their Draft Agreement if critical habitat is designated on 
their members' lands.
    As discussed in more detail in our final economic analysis, Plum 
Creek submitted a public comment indicating that they will likely 
abandon the Moosehead Concept Plan if critical habitat is designated in 
Maine. A report submitted with Plum Creek's public comments describes 
the economic impacts to the public and to Plum Creek in terms of 
potential economic benefits lost if the project is abandoned. In their 
public comment, Plum Creek summarized the economic impacts that would 
result from abandoning the Concept Plan (see page 5-19 of the final 
economic analysis). Plum Creek stated that a recent report valued lands 
in the Concept Plan at $189.6 million to Plum

[[Page 8655]]

Creek. Conservation easements were valued at $469,000 in benefits for 
the local residents and $9.2 million in benefits for Maine residents. 
In total, public benefits of the balance easement were quantified at 
between $10.8 and $19.2 million. Our final economic analysis does not 
sum Plum Creek's estimated impacts with the incremental impacts of 
critical habitat designation because the 2007 conservation 
recommendations from LURC and the Service with regard to the Moosehead 
Concept Plan are unlikely to be affected by the designation of critical 
habitat, there is uncertainty regarding whether these costs will be 
realized, and there may also be economic benefits of not going forward 
with the Moosehead Concept Plan that offset the cost estimates 
presented by Plum Creek. If Plum Creek abandons the Concept Plan, the 
alternative uses of the land are largely uncertain, and we, therefore, 
have not predicted what sorts of economic costs and benefits would be 
associated with those uses. The final economic analysis estimates the 
potential post-designation baseline economic impacts of lynx 
conservation efforts in Unit 1 to range from $8.6 to $9.5 million at a 
7 percent discount rate on an annualized basis.

Benefits of Inclusion Outweigh Benefits of Exclusion

    We find that the benefits of including MFPC lands in the 
designation outweigh the potential benefits of exclusion. Despite the 
lynx conservation benefits that might arise from the partnerships that 
could be built or strengthened through the Draft MFPC Agreement, it 
provides no commitment to implement on-the-ground habitat management to 
conserve the physical and biological features essential to the 
conservation of lynx, nor is there certainty that funding will be 
committed for research and landscape-level lynx habitat mapping across 
MFPC member lands.
    Section 7(a)(2) consultation on future, unforeseen projects within 
MFPC member lands, that are authorized, funded, carried out by Federal 
agencies, might result in a determination that the action will result 
in the destruction or adverse modification of lynx critical habitat.
    Overall, the MFPC Agreement is a draft document that lacks funding, 
does not identify funding necessary to complete commitments (such as 
research projects), lacks concrete management measures, and only 
commits to voluntary actions. While we recognize that there is great 
partnership potential promised through this Draft Agreement, we find 
that excluding 74 percent of a critical habitat unit based on this 
potential does not meet our criteria for exclusion.
    Although potential economic impacts associated with the Moosehead 
Concept Plan have been provided to us by Plum Creek, based on our final 
economic analysis and because of the uncertainty regarding whether Plum 
Creek will abandon the project and what economic costs and benefits 
would be associated with alternative uses of the land, we do not 
believe that this final designation will result in any substantial and 
disproportionate economic impacts. The Secretary is not excluding MFPC 
lands from critical habitat based on economic impacts.
    We recognize that designating MFPC member lands as critical habitat 
may weaken existing partnerships between the Service and MFPC and its 
member landowners; however, we will continue to work with private 
landowners to further lynx conservation.

Unit 3 (Northern Rockies--Montana and Idaho)

Montana Partnership Conservation Agreement

    Subsequent to publication of the proposed rule, a consortium of 
private lands timber companies partnered to develop the Montana 
Partnership Conservation Agreement (MPCA). Partners to the agreement 
include F.H. Stoltze Land and Timber Company, Plum Creek Timber 
Company, Inc., and Stimson Lumber Company, Inc. The finalized agreement 
would be signed only if private lands in Montana were not included in 
the lynx critical habitat designation, and would affect lands in 
critical habitat Units 3 and 5.
    We assessed the benefits of inclusion and the benefits of exclusion 
of these lands, and determined that these lands do not meet our 
criteria for exclusion from critical habitat. Our analysis follows 
below.
    The landowners involved in the MPCA have supported lynx recovery by 
allowing researchers from USFS, Rocky Mountain Research Station, 
University of Montana, and others access to their private property to 
conduct lynx surveys and research and by providing logistical 
assistance (e.g., lodging, field maps) to lynx researchers. Plum Creek 
Timber Company has supported lynx research by donating funds to 
specific projects. We supported many of these projects, which form a 
large part of the scientific basis for lynx recovery in the mountain 
west. The Draft MPCA Agreement would reinforce MPCA funding and support 
for continued lynx research. There is no assurance that MPCA funding 
and logistical support for lynx and snowshoe hare research will 
continue if critical habitat is designated on MPCA member lands.
    The Draft MPCA Agreement calls for member landowners and the 
Service to collaboratively develop habitat management best management 
practices that would assist in the development of management 
recommendations for lynx in relation to other wildlife species. As the 
land managers, MPCA participation is important to ensure that 
guidelines will be accepted. These guidelines would be a useful 
resource to inform management decisions for the conservation of lynx 
and other wildlife.
    The Draft MPCA Agreement documents a management process for 
reviewing research results and facilitating dissemination of results to 
Montana's private forest managers. The Draft Agreement includes 
creation of an annual lynx conservation workshop during which 
information exchange would occur between MPCA landowners, the Service, 
and other industrial and small-lot forest owners and forest products 
producers. An annual report would be provided to all partners 
summarizing lynx conservation activities and achievements.
    The Draft Agreement would provide educational benefits by 
establishing mechanisms to broaden the understanding of lynx habitat 
management and disseminating the best available scientific information 
on lynx throughout all levels of the forest products industry. Existing 
training programs for foresters, loggers, and land managers would be 
expanded to include lynx education components. Web sites, newsletters, 
professional meetings and forums would provide information on lynx 
research and management. The MPCA signatories would coordinate an 
annual lynx workshop to discuss research results and identify actions 
that may contribute to the conservation of lynx habitat while 
preserving Montana's working forest; the workshop would serve to inform 
the Service on changes in the industry and landowner forest management 
practice trends. This form of education and training could result in an 
improved understanding of lynx habitat requirements among members of 
the forest products industry.
    Under the Draft Agreement, participating parties would work 
collaboratively to improve lynx habitat management on industrial forest 
lands based on sound science and education of forest managers and 
others. Such measures might include development of landscape-scale 
habitat maps; experiments to evaluate the feasibility,

[[Page 8656]]

practicality, and effectiveness of research recommendations; and 
development of habitat management guidelines. However, the Draft 
Agreement would not prescribe measures for directly managing or 
protecting the physical and biological features essential to the 
conservation of lynx. The MPCA would support the implementation of 
management measures based on research if recommendations are 
operationally feasible, economically viable, and biologically 
meaningful.
    The Draft Agreement would commit participating parties for at least 
10 years (extendable in 5-year increments). The landowner signatories 
would prepare an annual report summarizing the actions taken to 
implement the agreement.

Benefits of Inclusion

    The primary benefit of including an area within a critical habitat 
designation is the protection provided by section 7(a)(2) of the Act, 
which directs Federal agencies to ensure that actions they authorize, 
fund, or carry out are not likely to jeopardize the continued existence 
of a threatened or endangered species and do not result in the 
destruction or adverse modification of critical habitat. The regulatory 
benefit of designating critical habitat on lands subject to the Draft 
MPCA Agreement in Montana is currently low, because few Federal actions 
trigger the consultation provisions under section 7(a)(2) of the Act. 
Since the lynx was listed in 2000, there has been one formal 
consultation on lynx on private lands in Montana. This formal opinion 
covered activities under the USDA Natural Resources and Conservation 
Service's Forest Stand Improvement Practices program. Under this 
programmatic formal consultation, five second-tier site-specific 
consultations have occurred. In addition, approximately two informal 
consultations occurred in Montana for private lands activities, 
involving road access requests across USFS lands to private lands.
    Federal actions have occurred on MPCA lands, and because of this, 
it is possible that section 7 consultations will occur in the future. 
Although a Federal nexus on projects in this area is rare, designation 
of critical habitat could provide a conservation benefit for lynx 
habitat.
    A potential benefit of critical habitat designation would be to 
signal the importance of designated lands to Federal agencies, 
scientific organizations, State and local governments, and the public 
to encourage conservation efforts to benefit the Canada lynx and its 
habitat.
    The Draft Agreement would not require specific land management 
actions to be taken by landowners. The MPCA landowners each manage 
their properties differently and own different amounts of property in 
different stand conditions. The MPCA can only serve as a vehicle to 
promote partnerships and educate forest owners so that they may 
voluntarily act to fulfill the conservation objective of the Draft 
Agreement. Individual MPCA landowners' land management decisions or 
activities to fulfill the Agreement are voluntary. No commitment would 
be made through the agreement to allow Service access to member lands 
in order to monitor lynx or effects of management on lynx. All of these 
factors indicate that benefits to lynx by excluding these lands are 
very speculative.

Benefits of Exclusion

    The Draft MPCA Agreement would commit partners to developing 
voluntary lynx management guidelines and conducting education and 
outreach across private timberlands in Montana. These commitments would 
strengthen partnerships in lynx recovery and could result in better 
management of the physical and biological features essential to lynx.
    The Draft Agreement would enable a coordinated approach to 
landowner education and conservation. This opportunity might not occur 
under section 7 consultation. The Draft Agreement would provide an 
opportunity to engage several large private landowners and many small 
wood products companies in a dialogue concerning the recovery needs of 
the lynx. The Draft Agreement could facilitate the consideration of 
voluntary lynx conservation actions at a landscape scale across land 
ownership boundaries.
    The MPCA signatory landowners are the three largest landowners in 
the critical habitat Units 3 and 5 in Montana, and collectively own 
approximately 35 percent of the critical habitat area in Montana. 
Designating critical habitat might provide additional protection for 
lynx, because some actions are known to trigger consultation through 
the Section 7(a)(2) process. The actions included in the Draft 
Agreement provide an opportunity to develop management strategies for 
lynx.
    One MPCA landowner (Plum Creek) has a long track record of 
partnership with State and Federal conservation agencies in Montana. 
The Draft Agreement would reinforce MPCA landowners' continued support 
for funding and continued lynx research.
    Some Montana forest landowners have a negative perception of 
critical habitat, and believe that designating critical habitat on 
their lands would result in negative consequences to them. They do not 
want an additional layer of Federal regulation over their private 
property. They are concerned that additional state regulations or other 
local restrictions may be imposed as a result of the designation of 
critical habitat. Designation on MPCA lands could make working 
cooperatively or effectively on lynx conservation with landowners more 
difficult. If MFPC members' lands are designated, the Draft Agreement 
would not be implemented and commitments to education and lynx 
guidelines would be no longer be offered.
    Plum Creek Timber Company and F.H. Stoltze Land and Lumber Company 
submitted public comments containing their own economic analysis of 
critical habitat designation for the lynx (see pages 5-26 of our final 
economic analysis for more details). Although the economic analyses 
provide valuable information on potential development impacts in Unit 
3, they cannot be incorporated into our final economic analysis because 
their assumptions differ from those applied in our analysis. Stoltze's 
economic analysis estimates the lost development option value on its 
land, assuming that critical habitat designation would preclude future 
development, to be $120 million. Plum Creek's economic analysis 
estimates that the greatest impact of critical habitat designation will 
be a reduced ability to develop their lands in the future. Assuming 
that Plum Creek would sell its land over a 20-year period, it estimates 
the total value at risk associated with the designation of critical 
habitat to be approximately $138 million (discounted at 7 percent). 
Plum Creek also submitted technical comments providing information on 
the locations and extent of Plum Creek land holdings and anticipated 
development projects within Unit 3. Although there may be increased 
regulatory stringency in certain Montana Counties as a result of 
critical habitat designation, the locations, size, and value of future 
development proposals is uncertain, as is the frequency with which they 
will occur in future years. Absent additional information on the 
specific land use restrictions that may be imposed, the cost of those 
restrictions, and their relation to lynx conservation, no impacts to 
development activities are quantified for Unit 3.

[[Page 8657]]

Benefits of Inclusion Outweigh Benefits of Exclusion

    We find that the benefits of including MPCA lands in the 
designation outweigh the potential benefits of exclusion. Despite the 
lynx conservation benefits that might arise from the partnerships that 
could be built or strengthened through the Draft MPCA Agreement, it 
provides no commitment to implement on-the-ground habitat management to 
conserve the physical and biological features essential to the 
conservation of lynx, nor is there certainty that funding will be 
committed for research and landscape-level lynx habitat mapping across 
MPCA member lands.
    Section 7(a)(2) consultation on future, unforeseen projects within 
MPCA member lands, that are authorized, funded or carried out by 
Federal agencies, might result in a determination that the action will 
result in the destruction or adverse modification of lynx critical 
habitat.
    Overall, the MPCA Agreement is a draft document that lacks funding, 
does not identify funding necessary to complete commitments (such as 
research projects), lacks concrete management measures, and only 
commits to voluntary actions. While we recognize that there is great 
partnership potential promised through this Draft Agreement, we find 
that excluding a significant portion (33 percent) of one critical 
habitat unit (and a small portion of another) based on this potential 
does not meet our criteria for exclusion.
    Although potential economic impacts associated with lands owned by 
Plum Creek and Stoltze have been provided, based on our final economic 
analysis and because of the uncertainty regarding the specific land use 
restrictions that may be imposed, the cost of those restrictions, and 
their relation to lynx conservation, we do not believe that this final 
designation will result in any substantial and disproportionate 
economic impacts. The Secretary is not excluding MPCA lands from 
critical habitat based on economic impacts.
    We recognize that designating MPCA member lands as critical habitat 
may weaken existing partnerships between the Service and MPCA and its 
member landowners; however, we will continue to work with private 
landowners to further lynx conservation.

Unit 4 (North Cascades--Washington)

Washington Department of Natural Resources Lynx Habitat Management Plan 
for DNR-Managed Lands

    The Washington Department of Natural Resources Lynx Habitat 
Management Plan for DNR-managed Lands (WDNR LHMP) encompasses 126,212 
ac (197 mi\2\) (51,076 ha/511 km\2\) of WDNR-managed lands distributed 
throughout north-central and northeastern Washington in areas 
delineated as Lynx Management Zones in the Washington State Recovery 
Lynx Plan (Stinson 2001, p. 39; WDNR 2006, pp. 5-13). The WDNR LHMP was 
finalized in 2006, and is a revision of the lynx plan that WDNR has 
been implementing since 1996 (WDNR 1996, entire). The 1996 plan was 
developed as a substitute for a species-specific critical habitat 
designation required by Washington Forest Practices rules in response 
to the lynx being State-listed as threatened (WDNR 2006, p. 5). The 
2006 WDNR LHMP provides further provisions to avoid the incidental take 
of lynx (Martin 2002, entire; WDNR 2006, p. 6). WDNR is committed to 
following the LHMP until 2076, or until the lynx is delisted (WDNR 
2006, p. 6). WDNR requested that lands subject to the plan be excluded 
from critical habitat.
    The WDNR LHMP contains measures to guide WDNR in creating and 
preserving quality lynx habitat through its forest management 
activities. The objectives and strategies of the LHMP are developed for 
multiple planning scales (ecoprovince and ecodivision, Lynx Management 
Zone, Lynx Analysis Unit (LAU), and ecological community), and include:
    1. Encouraging genetic integrity at the species level by preventing 
bottlenecks between British Columbia and Washington by limiting size 
and shape of temporary non-habitat along the border and maintaining 
major routes of dispersal between British Columbia and Washington;
    2. Maintaining connectivity between subpopulations by maintaining 
dispersal routes between and within zones and arranging timber harvest 
activities that result in temporary non-habitat patches among 
watersheds so that connectivity is maintained within each zone;
    3. Maintaining the integrity of requisite habitat types within 
individual home ranges by maintaining connectivity between and 
integrity within home ranges used by individuals and/or family groups; 
and
    4. Providing a diversity of successional stages within each LAU and 
connecting denning sites and foraging sites with forested cover without 
isolating them with open areas by prolonging the persistence of 
snowshoe hare habitat and retaining coarse woody debris for denning 
sites (WDNR 2006, p. 29).
    The LHMP identifies specific guidelines to achieve the objectives 
and strategies at each scale; it also describes how WDNR will monitor 
and evaluate the implementation and effectiveness of the HMP (WDNR 
2006, pp. 29-63). WDNR has been managing for lynx for over a decade, 
their management strategies appear to be effective.

Benefits of Inclusion

    On WDNR State lands, it is uncommon for an action with a Federal 
nexus that triggers consultation under section 7 of the Act to occur; 
therefore, little benefit would be realized through section 7 
consultation if these lands were included in the designation.
    Some educational benefits to designating critical habitat for lynx 
on WDNR managed lands may exist. However, we believe there is already 
substantial awareness of the lynx and conservation issues related to 
the lynx through the species being listed both under the Act and 
Washington State law; through the public review process for the WDNR 
HMP, Washington's Lynx Recovery Plan and the revision of the Okanogan-
Wenatchee National Forest Management Plan; lynx and snowshoe hare 
research being conducted by the USFS Pacific Northwest Research 
Station, Washington State University, University of Washington, and the 
University of Montana; surveys being conducted by Washington Department 
of Fish and Wildlife and the USFS; and State of Washington Web sites 
(e.g., http://wdfw.wa.gov/wlm/diversty/soc/recovery/lynx/lynx.htm, 
http://www.dnr.wa.gov/htdocs/amp/sepa/lynx/1_toc.pdf).

Benefits of Exclusion

    The WDNR LHMP should provide substantial protection of features 
essential to the conservation of lynx on WDNR lands, and should provide 
a greater level of management for the lynx on these State lands than 
designation of critical habitat. The measures contained in the WDNR 
LHMP exceed any measures that might result from critical habitat 
designation, because the LHMP provides lynx-specific objectives and 
strategies for different planning scales, guidelines to meet the 
objectives, and monitoring to evaluate implementation and 
effectiveness. As a result, we do not anticipate any actions on these 
lands that would destroy or adversely modify the areas.
    The exclusion of WDNR lands from critical habitat would help 
preserve the partnerships that we have developed with them through 
development and implementation of the 2006 LHMP and the original 1996 
lynx plan, both of

[[Page 8658]]

which provide for long-term lynx conservation.

Benefits of Exclusion Outweigh Benefits of Inclusion

    We evaluated the proposed exclusion of approximately 126,212 ac 
(51,076 ha) of lands managed by the WDNR. Including WDNR areas in the 
final designation would likely not lead to any changes in WDNR 
management (to further avoid destroying or adversely modifying that 
habitat), and therefore the benefits of inclusion are low.
    We determined that the benefits of excluding these lands in Unit 4 
outweigh the benefits of including these lands as critical habitat. 
Based on the above considerations, and consistent with the direction 
provided in section 4(b)(2) of the Act, we find that greater benefits 
to lynx exist by excluding WDNR lands from the final designation.
    We find that few additional conservation benefits would be realized 
through section 7 of the Act, because Federal actions are uncommon on 
this State land. The habitat conservation measures addressing the 
features essential to conservation of the lynx are already being 
implemented on WDNR lands under the WDNR HMP, have been proven to be 
effective, will be in place until at least 2076, and are providing for 
physical and biological features essential to the conservation of the 
species.

Exclusion Will Not Result in Extinction of the Species

    We do not believe that the exclusion of 126,212 ac (51,076 ha) from 
Unit 4 of this revised critical habitat designation will result in the 
extinction of the species, because the WDNR plans provide for the 
conservation of the species and the physical and biological features 
essential to it. The jeopardy standard of section 7(a)(2) of the Act 
and routine implementation of conservation measures through the section 
7 process also provide assurances that the subspecies will not go 
extinct. The protections afforded to the lynx under the jeopardy 
standard will remain in place for the areas excluded from revised 
critical habitat.

Economic Analysis

    Section 4(b)(2) of the Act requires us to designate critical 
habitat on the basis of the best scientific information available and 
to consider the economic and other relevant impacts of designating a 
particular area as critical habitat. We may exclude areas from critical 
habitat upon a determination that the benefits of such exclusions 
outweigh the benefits of specifying such areas as critical habitat. We 
cannot exclude such areas from critical habitat when such exclusion 
will result in the extinction of the species concerned.
    Following the publication of the proposed revised critical habitat 
designation, we conducted an economic analysis to estimate the 
potential economic effect of the designation. The draft analysis was 
made available for public review on October 21, 2008 (73 FR 62450). We 
accepted comments on the draft analysis until November 20, 2008.
    The primary purpose of the economic analysis is to estimate the 
potential economic impacts associated with the designation of critical 
habitat for the lynx. This information is intended to assist the 
Secretary in making decisions about whether the benefits of excluding 
particular areas from the designation outweigh the benefits of 
including those areas in the designation. This economic analysis 
considers the economic efficiency effects that may result from the 
designation, including habitat protections and conservation efforts 
that may be co-extensive with the listing of the species. It also 
addresses distribution of impacts, including an assessment of the 
potential effects on small entities and the energy industry. This 
information can be used by the Secretary to assess whether the effects 
of the designation might unduly burden a particular group or economic 
sector.
    This analysis focuses on the direct and indirect costs of the rule. 
However, economic impacts to land use activities can exist in the 
absence of critical habitat. These impacts may result from, for 
example, local zoning laws, State and natural resource laws, and 
enforceable management plans and best management practices applied by 
other State and Federal agencies. Economic impacts that result from 
these types of protections are not included in the analysis, as they 
are considered to be part of the regulatory and policy baseline.
    As discussed in the October 21, 2008, notice announcing the 
availability of the draft economic analysis (73 FR 62450), the draft 
analysis estimates quantifiable discounted future incremental costs of 
the critical habitat designation to be $2.09 million over 20 years 
($140,000 annually) using a 3 percent discount rate, or $1.48 million 
over 20 years ($139,000 annually) using a 7 percent discount rate. The 
EA also acknowledges that there may be additional costs, particularly 
to landowners, but these costs are too speculative to quantify at this 
time.
    After taking into consideration public comment on the proposal, the 
draft economic analysis was finalized, and we evaluated whether any 
area of proposed critical habitat should be excluded due to economic 
impacts (refer to Exclusions Under Section 4(b)(2) of the Act section 
above). The Secretary is not excluding any lands from critical habitat 
based on economic impacts. We do not believe that this final 
designation will result in any substantial and disproportionate 
economic impacts.
    A copy of the draft and final economic analysis with supporting 
documents are included in our administrative record and may be obtained 
by contacting U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, Montana Field Office (see 
ADDRESSES section) or from the Internet at http://mountain-prairie.fws.gov/species/mammals/lynx/criticalhabitat.htm.

Required Determinations

Regulatory Planning and Review

    The Office of Management and Budget (OMB) has determined that this 
final rule is significant and has reviewed it under Executive Order 
12866 (E.O. 12866). OMB bases its determination upon the following four 
criteria:
    a. Whether the rule will have an annual effect of $100 million or 
more on the economy or adversely affect an economic sector, 
productivity, jobs, the environment, or other units of the government.
    b. Whether the rule will create inconsistencies with other Federal 
agencies' actions.
    c. Whether the rule will materially affect entitlements, grants, 
user fees, loan programs, or the rights and obligations of their 
recipients.
    d. Whether the rule raises novel legal or policy issues.

OMB has determined that this rule is significant because it raises 
novel legal or policy issues.

Regulatory Flexibility Act (5 U.S.C. 601 et seq.)

    Under the Regulatory Flexibility Act (5 U.S.C. 601 et seq.), as 
amended by the Small Business Regulatory Enforcement Fairness Act (5 
U.S.C. 802(2)), whenever an agency is required to publish a notice of 
rulemaking for any proposed or final rule, it must prepare and make 
available for public comment a regulatory flexibility analysis that 
describes the effect of the rule on small entities (i.e., small 
businesses, small organizations, and small government jurisdictions). 
Although no regulatory flexibility analysis is required if the head of 
the agency certifies the rule will not have a significant economic 
impact on a

[[Page 8659]]

substantial number of small entities, we completed a final regulatory 
flexibility analysis, and our final economic analysis determines that 
this final rule does not result in a significant economic impact on a 
substantial number of small entities.
    According to the Small Business Administration (SBA), small 
entities include small organizations, such as independent nonprofit 
organizations and small governmental jurisdictions, including school 
boards and city and town governments that serve fewer than 50,000 
residents, and small businesses (13 CFR 121.201). Small businesses 
include manufacturing and mining concerns with fewer than 500 
employees, wholesale trade entities with fewer than 100 employees, 
retail and service businesses with less than $5 million in annual 
sales, general and heavy construction businesses with less than $27.5 
million in annual business, special trade contractors doing less than 
$11.5 million in annual business, and agricultural businesses with 
annual sales less than $750,000. To determine if potential economic 
impacts to these small entities are significant, we considered the 
types of activities that might trigger regulatory impacts under this 
designation as well as types of project modifications that may result. 
In general, the term ``significant economic impact'' is meant to apply 
to a typical small business firm's business operations.
    To determine if this final revised designation of critical habitat 
for the Canada lynx would affect a substantial number of small 
entities, we considered the number of affected small entities within 
particular types of economic activities (e.g., timber harvesting, 
livestock grazing, residential and related development, recreation 
activities, mining, and transportation). We considered each industry or 
category individually. In estimating the numbers of small entities 
potentially affected, we also considered whether their activities have 
any Federal involvement. Critical habitat designation will not affect 
activities that do not have any Federal involvement; designation of 
critical habitat affects activities conducted, funded, permitted, or 
authorized by Federal agencies.
    In our final economic analysis of this final revised critical 
habitat designation, we evaluated the potential economic effects on 
small business entities from conservation actions related to the 
listing of the Canada lynx and revised designation of the species' 
critical habitat. The activities affected by Canada lynx conservation 
efforts may include land development, transportation and utility 
operations, and conservation on public and tribal lands. The following 
is a summary of the information contained in the final economic 
analysis:
a. Development
    According to the final economic analysis, Canada lynx development-
related costs account for less than 1 percent of forecast incremental 
costs, and are estimated at $8,130 (in 2008 dollars) over 20 years. The 
costs consist of administrative costs of conducting consultations under 
section 7 of the Act on development projects. As a result of this 
information, we determined that the final revised designation is not 
anticipated to have a significant economic impact on a substantial 
number of small businesses with respect to development activities.
 b. Forest Management
    Potential costs to forest management in designated habitat account 
for another 16 percent of forecast costs. Undiscounted costs are 
estimated at $233,000 (in 2008 dollars) over 20 years. The costs 
consist of administrative costs of conducting consultations under 
section 7 of the Act on forest management. These costs are expected to 
be borne by Federal and State governments, private timber landowners, 
tribal landowners, and other private landowners across the units of the 
designation. The administrative costs would be divided among many 
entities and projects over a 20-year period. As a result of this 
information, we have determined that the final revised designation is 
not anticipated to have a significant economic impact on small forest 
management businesses.
c. Recreation
    Future costs associated with managing recreation account for an 
additional 19 percent of forecast costs. Costs are estimated to be 
$285,000 (in 2008 dollars) over 20 years. The costs consist of 
administrative costs of conducting consultations under section 7 of the 
Act associated with managing recreation (i.e., reductions of snowmobile 
opportunities) in Unit 4 (North Cascades). Incremental costs would be 
incurred by State and Federal agencies. As a result of this 
information, we have determined that the final revised designation is 
not anticipated to have a significant economic impact on a substantial 
number of small recreation businesses.
 d. Lynx Management Plans
    Future costs associated with development of lynx management plans 
account for approximately one percent of forecast costs. Costs are 
estimated to be $12,300 (in 2008 dollars) over 20 years. The costs 
consist of administrative costs of conducting consultations under 
section 7 of the Act on lynx management plans by Federal agencies. As a 
result of this information, we have determined that the final revised 
designation of critical habitat is not anticipated to have a 
significant economic impact on a substantial number of small 
businesses.
e. Mining/Oil and Gas
    Future costs associated with mining and oil and gas exploration and 
development activities account for an additional 8 percent of forecast 
costs. Costs are estimated at $115,000 (in 2008 dollars) over 20 years. 
The costs consist of administrative costs of conducting consultations 
under section 7 of the Act on mining and oil and gas projects by 
Federal agencies in Units 2, 4, and 5. As a result of this information, 
we have determined that the final revised designation of critical 
habitat is not anticipated to have a significant economic impact on a 
substantial number of small mining or oil and gas businesses.

Executive Order 13211

    On May 18, 2001, the President issued E.O. 13211 on regulations 
that significantly affect energy supply, distribution, and use. E.O. 
13211 requires agencies to prepare Statements of Energy Effects when 
undertaking certain actions. As described above, this rule is 
considered a significant regulatory action under E.O. 12866 due to 
potential novel legal and policy issues. OMB's guidance in M-01-27 for 
implementing this Executive Order outlines nine outcomes that may 
constitute ``a significant adverse effect'' when compared to no 
regulatory action. The final economic analysis finds that none of these 
outcomes will result from the critical habitat designation for lynx 
(refer to Appendix B). Thus, based on the information in our economic 
analysis, no energy-related incremental impacts associated with Canada 
lynx revised critical habitat are expected other than administrative 
costs. Costs are estimated at $115,000 (in 2008 dollars) over 20 years. 
The costs consist of administrative costs of conducting consultations 
under section 7 of the Act on mining and oil and gas projects by 
Federal agencies in Units 2, 4, and 5. As such, the designation of 
critical habitat

[[Page 8660]]

is not expected to significantly affect energy supplies, distribution, 
or use and a Statement of Energy Effects is not required.

Unfunded Mandates Reform Act (2 U.S.C. 1501 et seq.)

    In accordance with the Unfunded Mandates Reform Act (2 U.S.C. 
1501), the Service makes the following findings:
    a. This rule will not produce a Federal mandate. In general, a 
Federal mandate is a provision in legislation, statute or regulation 
that would impose an enforceable duty upon State, local, tribal 
governments, or the private sector and includes both ``Federal 
intergovernmental mandates'' and ``Federal private sector mandates.'' 
These terms are defined in 2 U.S.C. 658(5)-(7). ``Federal 
intergovernmental mandate'' includes a regulation that ``would impose 
an enforceable duty upon State, local, or tribal governments'' with two 
exceptions. It excludes ``a condition of Federal assistance.'' It also 
excludes ``a duty arising from participation in a voluntary Federal 
program,'' unless the regulation ``relates to a then-existing Federal 
program under which $500,000,000 or more is provided annually to State, 
local, and tribal governments under entitlement authority,'' if the 
provision would ``increase the stringency of conditions of assistance'' 
or ``place caps upon, or otherwise decrease, the Federal Government's 
responsibility to provide funding,'' and the State, local, or tribal 
governments ``lack authority'' to adjust accordingly. At the time of 
enactment, these entitlement programs were: Medicaid; AFDC work 
programs; Child Nutrition; Food Stamps; Social Services Block Grants; 
Vocational Rehabilitation State Grants; Foster Care, Adoption 
Assistance, and Independent Living; Family Support Welfare Services; 
and Child Support Enforcement. ``Federal private sector mandate'' 
includes a regulation that ``would impose an enforceable duty upon the 
private sector, except (i) a condition of Federal assistance or (ii) a 
duty arising from participation in a voluntary Federal program.''
    The designation of critical habitat does not impose a legally 
binding duty on non-Federal government entities or private parties. 
Under the Act, the only regulatory effect is that Federal agencies must 
ensure that their actions do not destroy or adversely modify critical 
habitat under section 7. While non-Federal entities receiving Federal 
funding, assistance, or permits, or otherwise requiring approval or 
authorization from a Federal agency for an action, may be indirectly 
impacted by the designation of critical habitat, the legally binding 
duty to avoid destruction or adverse modification of critical habitat 
rests squarely on the Federal agency. Furthermore, to the extent that 
non-Federal entities are indirectly impacted because they receive 
Federal assistance or participate in a voluntary Federal aid program, 
the Unfunded Mandates Reform Act would not apply; nor would critical 
habitat shift the costs of the large entitlement programs listed above 
on to State governments.
    b. We do not believe that this rule would significantly or uniquely 
affect small governments. The economic analysis discusses potential 
impacts of critical habitat designation for the Canada lynx on timber 
management, recreation, land development, mining, oil and gas 
development, and the development of management plans. The analysis 
estimates costs of the rule to be $2.11 million at present value over a 
20-year period ($142,000 annualized) assuming a 3 percent discount 
rate, and $1.49 million ($141,000 annualized) assuming a 7 percent 
discount rate. Most of the impacts are expected to affect Federal 
agencies through administrative costs associated with consultations 
under section 7 of the Act. Impacts on small governments are not 
anticipated, or they are anticipated to be passed through to consumers. 
The SBA does not consider the Federal Government to be a small 
governmental jurisdiction or entity. Consequently, we do not believe 
that the designation of critical habitat for the Canada lynx will 
significantly or uniquely affect small government entities. As such, a 
Small Government Agency Plan is not required.

Takings

    In accordance with Executive Order 12630 (``Government Actions and 
Interference with Constitutionally Protected Private Property 
Rights''), we have analyzed the potential takings implications of 
designating critical habitat for the lynx in a takings implications 
assessment. The takings implications assessment concludes that this 
designation of critical habitat for the lynx does not pose significant 
takings implications.

Federalism

    In accordance with Executive Order 13132, the rule does not have 
significant Federalism effects. A Federalism assessment is not 
required. In keeping with Department of the Interior policy, we 
requested information from, and coordinated development of, the 
critical habitat designation with appropriate State resource agencies 
in Idaho, Maine, Minnesota, Montana, Washington, and Wyoming. We 
believe that this resulting final designation of critical habitat for 
the lynx will have little incremental impact on State and local 
governments and their activities. The designation may have some benefit 
to these governments in that the areas important to the conservation of 
the species are more clearly defined, and the primary constituent 
element of the habitat essential to the survival and conservation of 
the species is specifically identified. While making this definition 
and identification does not alter where and what federally sponsored 
activities may occur, it may assist these local governments in long-
range planning (rather than waiting for case-by-case section 7 
consultations to occur).

Civil Justice Reform

    In accordance with Executive Order 12988, the Office of the 
Solicitor has determined that the rule does not unduly burden the 
judicial system and meets the requirements of sections 3(a) and 3(b)(2) 
of the Order. We have designated critical habitat in accordance with 
the provisions of the Act. This final designation uses standard 
property descriptions and identifies the primary constituent element 
within the designated areas to assist the public in understanding the 
habitat needs of the lynx.

Paperwork Reduction Act of 1995 (44 U.S.C. 3501 et seq.)

    This final rule does not contain any new collections of information 
that require approval by OMB under the Paperwork Reduction Act. This 
rule will not impose recordkeeping or reporting requirements on State 
or local governments, individuals, businesses, or organizations. An 
agency may not conduct or sponsor, and a person is not required to 
respond to, a collection of information unless it displays a currently 
valid OMB control number.

National Environmental Policy Act

    We have undertaken a NEPA analysis for this critical habitat 
designation and notified the public of the availability of the draft 
environmental assessment for the proposed rule on October 21, 2008. The 
final environmental assessment, as well as a Finding of No Significant 
Impact (FONSI), is available upon request from the Field Supervisor, 
Montana Fish and Wildlife Office (see ADDRESSES section) or on our Web 
site at http://mountain-prairie.fws.gov/

[[Page 8661]]

species/mammals/lynx/criticalhabitat.htm

Government-to-Government Relationship With Tribes

    In accordance with the President's memorandum of April 29, 1994, 
``Government-to-Government Relations with Native American Tribal 
Governments'' (59 FR 22951), Executive Order 13175 ``Consultation and 
Coordination with Indian Tribal Governments,'' and the Department of 
the Interior Manual at 512 DM 2, we readily acknowledge our 
responsibility to communicate meaningfully with recognized Federal 
Tribes on a government-to-government basis. Tribal lands determined to 
be essential to the conservation of the lynx have been excluded from 
this critical habitat designation. Please refer to our discussion of 
Tribal lands under the Relationship of Critical Habitat to Tribal Lands 
section of this final rule.

References Cited

    A complete list of all references cited in this rulemaking is 
available on the Web site http://mountain-prairie.fws.gov/species/mammals/lynx/ or upon request from the Field Supervisor, Montana Field 
Office (see ADDRESSES).

List of Subjects in 50 CFR Part 17

    Endangered and threatened species, Exports, Imports, Reporting and 
recordkeeping requirements, Transportation.

Regulation Promulgation



0
Accordingly, we amend part 17, subchapter B of chapter I, title 50 of 
the Code of Federal Regulations, as set forth below:

PART 17--[AMENDED]

0
1. The authority citation for part 17 continues to read as follows:

    Authority: 16 U.S.C. 1361-1407; 16 U.S.C. 1531-1544; 16 U.S.C. 
4201-4245; Pub. L. 99-625, 100 Stat. 3500; unless otherwise noted.


0
2. In Sec.  17.11(h), revise the entry for ``Lynx, Canada'' under 
``MAMMALS'' to read as follows:


Sec.  17.11  Endangered and threatened wildlife.

* * * * *
    (h) * * *

--------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
                        Species                                                    Vertebrate
--------------------------------------------------------                        population where                                  Critical     Special
                                                            Historic range       endangered or         Status      When listed    habitat       rules
           Common name                Scientific name                              threatened
--------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
             Mammals
 
                                                                      * * * * * * *
Lynx, Canada.....................  Lynx canadensis.....  U.S.A. (AK, CO, ID,  CO, ID, ME, MI, MN,  T                       692     17.95(a)     17.40(k)
                                                          ME, MI, MN, MT,      MT, NH, NY, OR,
                                                          NH, NY, OR, UT,      UT, VT, WA, WI, WY.
                                                          VT, WA, WI, WY),
                                                          Canada,
                                                          circumboreal.
 
                                                                      * * * * * * *
--------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------


0
3. In Sec.  17.95(a), revise the entry for ``Canada lynx (Lynx 
canadensis)'' to read as follows:


Sec.  17.95  Critical habitat--fish and wildlife.

    (a) Mammals.
* * * * *
    Canada lynx (Lynx canadensis)
    (1) Critical habitat units are depicted on the maps below for the 
following States and Counties:
    (i) Idaho: Boundary County;
    (ii) Maine: Aroostook, Franklin, Penobscot, Piscataquis, and 
Somerset Counties;
    (iii) Minnesota: Cook, Koochiching, Lake, and St. Louis Counties;
    (iv) Montana: Carbon, Flathead, Gallatin, Glacier, Granite, Lake, 
Lewis and Clark, Lincoln, Missoula, Park, Pondera, Powell, Stillwater, 
Sweetgrass, and Teton Counties;
    (v) Washington: Chelan and Okanogan Counties; and
    (vi) Wyoming: Fremont, Lincoln, Park, Sublette, and Teton Counties.
    (2) Within these areas, the primary constituent element for the 
Canada lynx is boreal forest landscapes supporting a mosaic of 
differing successional forest stages and containing all of the 
following:
    (i) Presence of snowshoe hares and their preferred habitat 
conditions, which include dense understories of young trees, shrubs or 
overhanging boughs that protrude above the snow, and mature 
multistoried stands with conifer boughs touching the snow surface;
    (ii) Winter snow conditions that are generally deep and fluffy for 
extended periods of time;
    (iii) Sites for denning that have abundant coarse woody debris, 
such as downed trees and root wads; and
    (iv) Matrix habitat (e.g., hardwood forest, dry forest, non-forest, 
or other habitat types that do not support snowshoe hares) that occurs 
between patches of boreal forest in close juxtaposition (at the scale 
of a lynx home range) such that lynx are likely to travel through such 
habitat while accessing patches of boreal forest within a home range.
    (3) Critical habitat does not include waterbodies, including lakes, 
reservoirs, or rivers, or human-made structures existing on the 
effective date of this rule, such as buildings, paved and gravel 
roadbeds, and the land on which such structures are located.
    (4) Index map for Canada lynx critical habitat follows:

[[Page 8662]]

[GRAPHIC] [TIFF OMITTED] TR25FE09.000

    (5) Unit 1: Northern Maine; Aroostook, Franklin, Penobscot, 
Piscataquis and Somerset Counties, Maine.
    (i) Coordinate projection: UTM, NAD83, Zone 19, Meters. Coordinate 
definition: (easting, northing).
    (ii) Polygon bounded by the following coordinates: (416400, 
5140154) (417029, 5140238) (417418, 5140057) (417516, 5139824) (417280, 
5139090) (417041, 5139162) (416973, 5139038) (416958, 5138720) (416760, 
5138840) (416786, 5138700) (416604, 5138778) (416353, 5138495) (416673, 
5138152) (424087, 5138050) (424076, 5135061) (423015, 5134950) (422555, 
5134407) (422442, 5133983) (422118, 5133876) (421865, 5133501) (421909, 
5132984) (421694, 5132707) (421490, 5132692) (421522, 5132487) (421285, 
5132267) (421388, 5131239) (420719, 5131112) (420703, 5130486) (420446, 
5130180) (420573, 5129900) (420432, 5129976) (420390, 5129836) (420961, 
5129391) (420829, 5128936) (420360, 5128635) (420352, 5128196) (414078, 
5128211) (413903, 5108332) (403589, 5108497) (403617, 5108750) (403932, 
5109105) (404247, 5110111) (404268, 5110701) (404508, 5111058) (404209, 
5111354) (404212, 5111567) (404066, 5111434) (403957, 5111630) (403609, 
5111674) (403663, 5111827) (403451, 5111946) (403518, 5112081) (403288, 
5112396) (403079, 5112416) (402763, 5112946) (402350, 5113135) (402247, 
5113629) (401376, 5114257) (400754, 5115173) (400783, 5115361) (400415, 
5115421) (400462, 5115836) (400284, 5116128) (400789, 5116564) (401474, 
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5129679) (407052, 5130260) (407160, 5130835) (406942, 5131371) (407982, 
5132610) (407978, 5132884) (408331, 5133381) (408268, 5133547) (409022, 
5133818) (409768, 5134631) (410296, 5134423) (410631, 5134821) (410862, 
5134619) (411028, 5134858) (411648, 5134571) (411943, 5134930) (412214, 
5134957) (412206, 5135221) (412509, 5135706) (413132, 5135719) (413323, 
5135871) (413239, 5136767) (413405, 5137044) (414114, 5137474) (414140, 
5137786) (414321, 5137450) (414590, 5137555) (414493, 5137776) (414633, 
5137695) (414661, 5137859) (414830, 5137733) (414664, 5138012) (414755, 
5138132) (414897, 5138037) (414846, 5138271) (415306, 5138754) (415367, 
5139219) (415520, 5139166) (415409, 5139429) (415616, 5139544) (415370, 
5139635) (415817, 5139785) (415696, 5139861) (415875, 5139989) (415687, 
5140124) (416292, 5140279) (416400, 5140154).
    (iii) Polygon bounded by the following coordinates: (533825, 
5057403) (529258, 5057508) (529477, 5058991) (528920, 5058991) (528554, 
5059304) (527521, 5058377) (526106, 5058012) (524798, 5058004) (523967, 
5061549) (513460, 5059043) (515203, 5052175) (514706, 5051830) (514403, 
5050141) (513859, 5049105) (513289, 5048532) (512508, 5046559) (510879, 
5043792) (509799, 5042887) (509161, 5042615) (508745, 5042102) (506180, 
5040541) (462537, 5032002) (460414, 5042546) (453705, 5041122) (453207, 
5041084) (453041, 5041247) (453005, 5041034) (453125, 5040998) (452703, 
5040915) (452146, 5041594) (451850, 5042474) (452298, 5042612) (452098, 
5042994) (452392, 5042931) (452263, 5043038) (452335, 5043321) (452107, 
5043131) (452271, 5043471) (452719, 5043300) (452730, 5043550) (453133, 
5043444) (453255, 5043674) (453558, 5043694) (453384, 5043924) (453805, 
5043743) (454704, 5044291) (455038, 5043970) (455067, 5043675) (454816, 
5043653) (455116, 5043137) (456199,

[[Page 8663]]

5042326) (456549, 5042406) (456570, 5042209) (456842, 5042228) (456735, 
5042469) (456958, 5042470) (456972, 5042292) (457243, 5042254) (457257, 
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5045460) (455025, 5045769) (455213, 5045879) (455246, 5045559) (455648, 
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5047067) (456238, 5047013) (456482, 5047250) (456379, 5046818) (456527, 
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[[Page 8664]]

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[[Page 8665]]

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5229115) (516552, 5229751) (517841, 5229866) (518782, 5230349) (520105, 
5231389) (520425, 5231389) (521416, 5231934) (522244, 5231636) (522875, 
5231985) (522882, 5227037) (536315, 5227345) (537300, 5226509) (537703, 
5226348) (541733, 5226260) (542627, 5225931) (544619, 5225730) (545219, 
5225272) (545651, 5224592) (548126, 5222586) (548937, 5221725) (553209, 
5218889) (553381, 5218050) (555386, 5217069) (556379, 5216306) (556711, 
5215783) (557953, 5215089) (559110, 5213240) (560037, 5210947) (561053, 
5210517) (562360, 5209394) (562522, 5197585) (553279, 5197227) (553501, 
5167376) (572577, 5168197) (572903, 5160530) (579218, 5160781) (580586, 
5157409) (581296, 5156374) (582959, 5154933) (583757, 5154538) (583934, 
5151164) (583249, 5151137) (583962, 5135297) (584207, 5125725) (584179, 
5120017) (584700, 5119992) (584664, 5109884) (581639, 5110399) (575769, 
5110148) (572686, 5110681) (570858, 5110570) (569306, 5109789) (567822, 
5109769) (566419, 5109010) (564845, 5108964) (564397, 5108766) (563730, 
5108103) (533734, 5108029) (533783, 5098080) (534168, 5098080) (534215, 
5086281) (532490, 5086261) (532443, 5088013) (527278, 5088008) (527020, 
5088456) (527294, 5088737) (526714, 5090046) (526827, 5089797) (526869, 
5090488) (526174, 5090611) (525763, 5091215) (524988, 5091406) (524388, 
5091922) (524316, 5092413) (523295, 5092707) (523198, 5093251) (522509, 
5094167) (522048, 5094492) (513728, 5094567) (513731, 5094258) (514950, 
5093134) (515077, 5092769) (515671, 5092367) (516125, 5091625) (516726, 
5091316) (517122, 5090636) (518287, 5089320) (518905, 5088839) (520105, 
5088478) (520482, 5088026) (520911, 5087908) (521888, 5087145) (522194, 
5087124) (522670, 5086479) (522815, 5085912) (523418, 5085518) (523123, 
5085864) (523741, 5085225) (523741, 5083814) (529802, 5083840) (529617, 
5084108) (530005, 5084114) (530043, 5083844) (534239, 5083909) (534260, 
5067638) (533177, 5067643) (533105, 5067037) (532081, 5064746) (532003, 
5064314) (532143, 5063634) (531636, 5062592) (531585, 5062178) (532238, 
5060764) (532143, 5060093) (533165, 5058935) (533825, 5057403), 
excluding the island polygons bounded by the following coordinates: 
(523750, 5082709) (513700, 5082738) (513599, 5072853) (523768, 5072898) 
(523750, 5082709), b) (479953, 5077619) (479924, 5078543) (479761, 
5078587) (479731, 5078996) (479866, 5079938) (479766, 5081621) (479488, 
5082258) (479182, 5082685) (478506, 5083113) (477717, 5083220) (477550, 
5083439) (476922, 5083400) (476986, 5082589) (476604, 5081545) (476766, 
5080941) (476421, 5079210) (476937, 5077638) (479953, 5077619) (484820, 
5087152) (484919, 5081791) (485890, 5081372) (485887, 5080973) (486695, 
5081006) (487907, 5080395) (487910, 5080173) (487510, 5080036) (487456, 
5080423) (486815, 5080578) (486744, 5080452) (486496, 5080634) (486711, 
5080406) (486496, 5080580) (486496, 5080310) (485946, 5080384) (486844, 
5080142) (487174, 5080202) (487669, 5079975) (487990, 5080154) (490035, 
5080167) (494410, 5077771) (494314, 5078658) (493597, 5078752) (492876, 
5079197) (492831, 5087037) (493279, 5087017) (493353, 5095938) (494485, 
5095926) (494601, 5096246) (494440, 5096226) (494350, 5096864) (493908, 
5097136) (493864, 5097841) (493365, 5098142) (493417, 5108089) (488853, 
5108054) (488567, 5107824) (488051, 5107805) (486906, 5108008) (486338, 
5107874) (485869, 5108035) (483292, 5108015) (483299, 5098222) (473357, 
5098151) (473353, 5098914) (473161, 5098294) (472870, 5098030) (472861, 
5096680) (473842, 5095069) (473899, 5094727) (474167, 5094572) (474536, 
5093901) (474778, 5093935) (474657, 5093578) (475069, 5092937) (474618, 
5091608) (474913, 5091112) (474728, 5090926) (474786, 5090772) (475369, 
5089715) (475228, 5089418) (475228, 5088407) (475734, 5087767) (475741, 
5087560) (476768, 5086912) (477208, 5086332) (477534, 5086260) (477572, 
5085709) (478422, 5085245) (478450, 5085040) (479362, 5084434) (479645, 
5083957) (479440, 5087274) (484820, 5087152), excluding the island 
polygons bounded by the following coordinates: (467820, 5103153) 
(468131, 5103309) (469054, 5105153) (468756, 5105539) (468580, 5105388) 
(468421, 5105469) (468159, 5106182) (468368, 5106469) (468239, 5106659) 
(468445, 5106719) (468970, 5106448) (469369, 5105831) (469834, 5105732) 
(470166, 5106029) (470451, 5105824) (470627, 5105912) (470778, 5107550) 
(471219, 5108431) (471588, 5108493) (471521, 5109030) (471951, 5109508) 
(471556, 5109524) (471656, 5109872) (471935, 5109988) (472017, 5109878) 
(471990, 5110102) (472474, 5110119) (472818, 5110442) (472827, 5110191) 
(472513, 5109801) (472002, 5109592) (472406, 5109318) (472287, 5108164) 
(472091, 5107929) (471791, 5106847) (471521, 5106589) (471228, 5105369) 
(471561, 5104469) (472181, 5103992) (472713, 5103914) (473346, 5103453) 
(473341, 5117800) (463623, 5117895) (463664, 5109846) (464395, 5109021) 
(464830, 5108057) (464273, 5107543) (464353, 5106869) (465334, 5105990) 
(465868, 5104563) (466148, 5104243) (466698, 5103841) (467171, 5104129) 
(467430, 5103471) (467820, 5103153), excluding the island polygons 
bounded by the following coordinates: (513717, 5116742) (513718, 
5116540) (514376, 5116517) (514529, 5116386) (514380, 5116088) (513719, 
5116170) (513718, 5115655) (514919, 5115604) (514765, 5115421) (514620, 
5115487) (514565, 5115286) (513945, 5115325) (513699, 5115190) (513711, 
5114024) (514843, 5114026) (515362, 5114145)

[[Page 8666]]

(515600, 5114386) (515533, 5113983) (515327, 5113966) (515267, 5113756) 
(515582, 5113670) (515884, 5114019) (516058, 5113854) (516994, 5113761) 
(517213, 5113486) (517532, 5113728) (517487, 5113372) (517656, 5113152) 
(517849, 5113163) (517863, 5112906) (517583, 5112667) (516876, 5113081) 
(516668, 5112974) (516709, 5112814) (516389, 5112925) (515935, 5112465) 
(515849, 5112210) (516477, 5112181) (516485, 5111960) (516777, 5111753) 
(516486, 5111452) (516586, 5111206) (516447, 5110863) (516340, 5111114) 
(516504, 5110541) (516299, 5109920) (516396, 5108705) (516077, 5108921) 
(516076, 5108549) (515915, 5108494) (515901, 5108814) (515836, 5108365) 
(515658, 5108258) (515711, 5108007) (513692, 5108005) (513670, 5098024) 
(521046, 5097931) (520991, 5098233) (520317, 5099019) (520426, 5099452) 
(520237, 5099969) (519460, 5100732) (519225, 5100795) (518258, 5102129) 
(517684, 5102188) (517681, 5102652) (517811, 5102611) (517693, 5103365) 
(517813, 5103517) (516534, 5104235) (516042, 5104351) (515949, 5104522) 
(516191, 5104509) (516158, 5104712) (515717, 5104699) (515672, 5104971) 
(516144, 5105068) (515879, 5105499) (515724, 5105422) (515864, 5105252) 
(515778, 5105118) (515612, 5105120) (515480, 5105384) (515778, 5105957) 
(515742, 5106525) (515448, 5107126) (515592, 5107646) (515804, 5107743) 
(515744, 5107967) (518793, 5107949) (518717, 5111938) (518324, 5111938) 
(518374, 5116237) (517498, 5116242) (517470, 5117924) (513720, 5117929) 
(513717, 5116742), excluding the island polygons bounded by the 
following coordinates: (480895, 5117922) (483208, 5117969) (483166, 
5127993) (478242, 5128006) (478362, 5127510) (477921, 5127090) (477988, 
5126692) (477876, 5126608) (476096, 5126601) (475632, 5126339) (475646, 
5125802) (476020, 5124991) (475934, 5124131) (476289, 5124172) (476690, 
5123507) (477318, 5123063) (478316, 5123062) (479020, 5122862) (479240, 
5122962) (479189, 5122624) (479459, 5122600) (479490, 5122456) (480115, 
5122576) (479912, 5122239) (479395, 5122059) (479041, 5121432) (478750, 
5121537) (478881, 5121840) (478542, 5122287) (477539, 5122450) (477039, 
5122326) (476943, 5120118) (479311, 5119464) (479779, 5118849) (480469, 
5118367) (480792, 5118318) (480895, 5117922), and excluding the island 
polygons bounded by the following coordinates: (371100, 5047834) 
(372416, 5040243) (372542, 5040170) (372542, 5039535) (382353, 5041114) 
(381765, 5044067) (384623, 5044630) (384594, 5044960) (384801, 5044665) 
(385302, 5044899) (385457, 5044904) (385397, 5044782) (386476, 5044994) 
(385969, 5045113) (385967, 5045303) (386306, 5045497) (386995, 5045096) 
(387743, 5045243) (387341, 5047432) (381308, 5046305) (380368, 5051014) 
(370847, 5049328) (371100, 5047834).
    (iv) Map of Unit 1, Northern Maine, follows:

[[Page 8667]]

[GRAPHIC] [TIFF OMITTED] TR25FE09.001


[[Page 8668]]


BILLING CODE 4310-55-P
    (6) Unit 2: Northeastern Minnesota; Cook, Koochiching, Lake, and 
St. Louis Counties.
    (i) Coordinate Projection: UTM, NAD83, Zone 15, Meters. Coordinate 
Definition: (easting, northing)
    (ii) Polygon bounded by the following coordinates: (485851, 
5386598) (487031, 5385449) (493478, 5385989) (501006, 5385538) (503370, 
5386443) (503698, 5386277) (503742, 5383856) (505199, 5383680) (506669, 
5382536) (507803, 5382385) (520034, 5376270) (525283, 5377047) (526934, 
5376672) (527650, 5373939) (527629, 5373409) (527187, 5372687) (527496, 
5372267) (526808, 5371864) (525551, 5372121) (525010, 5371520) (523215, 
5371634) (522261, 5371345) (522081, 5370214) (521489, 5368900) (521544, 
5368616) (521240, 5367800) (523065, 5365665) (524909, 5365241) (525502, 
5364809) (531538, 5365306) (534244, 5366112) (536425, 5366133) (537774, 
5364249) (538324, 5363977) (538811, 5362962) (540222, 5362390) (540234, 
5361025) (538768, 5357770) (539282, 5355573) (540666, 5352664) (541724, 
5350845) (542131, 5350375) (542525, 5350292) (543395, 5349087) (544997, 
5345416) (545028, 5345058) (545323, 5344651) (545115, 5344603) (545106, 
5344395) (545474, 5344442) (545592, 5344280) (545421, 5343871) (545491, 
5343638) (545650, 5343626) (545695, 5343228) (546081, 5342644) (546125, 
5342169) (546395, 5341597) (546732, 5341312) (546800, 5340975) (547025, 
5341199) (546936, 5341317) (547371, 5341246) (548154, 5342103) (548944, 
5342290) (549150, 5342617) (549596, 5342514) (550494, 5342903) (550754, 
5343177) (553425, 5343653) (554224, 5344143) (553913, 5345066) (552701, 
5345985) (552347, 5346682) (552444, 5347215) (552285, 5347274) (551818, 
5348580) (552311, 5350577) (551462, 5351690) (551561, 5352365) (552277, 
5352518) (552696, 5354576) (554626, 5355960) (557717, 5355297) (558107, 
5354868) (558758, 5354922) (558725, 5355251) (559083, 5355662) (559588, 
5355511) (559737, 5355309) (560832, 5355613) (560949, 5356227) (561296, 
5356474) (561937, 5356884) (563310, 5357206) (563453, 5356161) (567846, 
5355943) (568295, 5356432) (569979, 5356505) (570559, 5355277) (570742, 
5355165) (570553, 5354927) (570632, 5353948) (571267, 5353643) (571818, 
5352875) (574090, 5352383) (573170, 5349780) (573223, 5348638) (573647, 
5347798) (573727, 5346277) (575016, 5345664) (575707, 5344274) (575905, 
5344260) (576022, 5343966) (576472, 5344374) (576278, 5344623) (576361, 
5344933) (577578, 5344862) (577657, 5344501) (578069, 5344130) (577339, 
5343926) (577307, 5342752) (577859, 5342736) (578470, 5342413) (578925, 
5342852) (580182, 5343160) (580577, 5343423) (581317, 5343200) (582181, 
5343276) (582860, 5342153) (584095, 5341278) (584373, 5339925) (587925, 
5340493) (588390, 5339925) (589825, 5339464) (590017, 5338832) (590203, 
5338817) (590646, 5339299) (591825, 5339337) (592101, 5339815) (592432, 
5339944) (592619, 5339376) (593003, 5339140) (593513, 5339193) (593519, 
5339798) (595443, 5339276) (595653, 5339049) (595819, 5338415) (595649, 
5337869) (595048, 5337126) (594801, 5336068) (594943, 5335869) (595886, 
5336309) (596238, 5336066) (596307, 5334851) (596027, 5334042) (596460, 
5333252) (596741, 5333208) (596834, 5332940) (596730, 5331768) (595877, 
5330162) (595926, 5329808) (596521, 5329713) (597235, 5330023) (597370, 
5330422) (598026, 5330703) (597681, 5329545) (598254, 5329153) (599201, 
5329215) (599371, 5329070) (599601, 5329605) (600254, 5329831) (600186, 
5329383) (600603, 5329015) (601262, 5327952) (603112, 5328580) (605013, 
5328604) (606035, 5329108) (607207, 5329329) (607693, 5328750) (606518, 
5327703) (606131, 5324696) (606340, 5323702) (606105, 5322709) (606724, 
5322150) (608598, 5323271) (612565, 5324962) (614319, 5324860) (615491, 
5325057) (615741, 5324835) (615713, 5324520) (616401, 5323228) (616374, 
5323014) (616981, 5322828) (618166, 5323437) (619826, 5323820) (621336, 
5325267) (621767, 5325009) (623566, 5325743) (623915, 5325327) (624368, 
5325382) (624838, 5325708) (627312, 5325875) (628388, 5326437) (629064, 
5326454) (630332, 5327084) (631594, 5328550) (632932, 5329237) (634681, 
5331741) (635184, 5331391) (637038, 5333401) (638516, 5334539) (638480, 
5334865) (638344, 5334837) (638195, 5335148) (639862, 5335858) (640200, 
5336476) (641747, 5337232) (642477, 5338131) (643069, 5338010) (643749, 
5338224) (643980, 5338674) (644233, 5338706) (644450, 5338997) (645915, 
5339247) (646332, 5339161) (646876, 5339354) (647700, 5340268) (648398, 
5340540) (648296, 5340791) (650263, 5342682) (653988, 5343919) (654826, 
5344049) (655417, 5344814) (656948, 5345787) (657279, 5345195) (657774, 
5344918) (658382, 5344979) (659791, 5345711) (660079, 5345619) (660124, 
5345361) (660420, 5345179) (660543, 5344662) (660412, 5343884) (660613, 
5343635) (660957, 5339349) (660823, 5338248) (661135, 5337857) (661722, 
5338254) (661607, 5338986) (661963, 5339111) (662239, 5338534) (662802, 
5338585) (663237, 5338393) (663511, 5336789) (663842, 5336357) (664097, 
5336587) (664315, 5336439) (664639, 5336564) (664927, 5336963) (665226, 
5336898) (665357, 5336659) (665167, 5335414) (665251, 5335150) (665063, 
5334896) (664833, 5334946) (664369, 5334603) (663785, 5333862) (664100, 
5333689) (664974, 5333783) (664890, 5333439) (664540, 5333413) (664422, 
5333132) (664652, 5332857) (664951, 5332882) (664995, 5332675) (665444, 
5332472) (665682, 5331824) (666072, 5331643) (666666, 5329659) (667422, 
5328858) (668164, 5329277) (671028, 5329525) (672252, 5330052) (675576, 
5330496) (676629, 5331444) (677229, 5331445) (678166, 5331947) (679258, 
5332147) (679331, 5332396) (680106, 5332893) (680460, 5332536) (681171, 
5332780) (681634, 5332705) (681912, 5332177) (680907, 5331032) (681327, 
5330152) (681905, 5329850) (684863, 5330321) (685363, 5330112) (685754, 
5330400) (686416, 5330291) (686589, 5330599) (686881, 5330350) (687115, 
5330365) (687593, 5330708) (687785, 5331078) (688241, 5331165) (688517, 
5331489) (690021, 5330950) (690708, 5330442) (692753, 5331219) (693312, 
5331243) (694581, 5330511) (694899, 5329958) (695478, 5329743) (695630, 
5329782) (695566, 5330087) (696009, 5330178) (697733, 5330194) (698190, 
5330414) (698261, 5330797) (698763, 5331117) (700232, 5331530) (701152, 
5331217) (701547, 5330848) (701814, 5330865) (702893, 5331360) (704439, 
5331310) (706548, 5332050) (707634, 5331880) (709269, 5332125) (710154, 
5332643) (711074, 5332377) (712069, 5332487) (712585, 5332755) (713426, 
5332682) (714191, 5332036) (714691, 5331893) (716504, 5332010) (717820, 
5331684) (719072, 5331193) (720295, 5330458) (720476, 5330531) (721210, 
5330287) (721671, 5329997) (722065, 5328588) (722379, 5328065) (722829, 
5328239) (723651, 5327111) (724021, 5326144) (723839, 5324580) (724114, 
5323786) (724315, 5323844) (724460, 5323795) (724491, 5323532) (724769, 
5323609) (725531, 5323300) (726078, 5322370) (726424, 5322403) (727225, 
5321986) (727522, 5322177) (727497, 5322549) (727936, 5322401) (728622, 
5322552) (728884, 5321688) (729278, 5321565) (729293, 5321280) (729131, 
5321101) (729558, 5320878) (728916, 5320845) (729566, 5320869) (729569, 
5320513) (730014, 5320525) (730204, 5320204) (730991, 5320004) (731517, 
5319542) (732005, 5319615) (732279, 5319491) (734766, 5315415) (735129, 
5314297) (734700, 5314286) (734714, 5313506) (733934, 5313480) (733900, 
5310257) (734121, 5307096) (733349, 5306720) (733074, 5306272) (732699, 
5306178) (732586, 5305934) (732056, 5306311) (731604, 5305961) (731070, 
5305917) (730937,

[[Page 8669]]

5305606) (730619, 5305523) (730417, 5305718) (730128, 5305618) (729547, 
5305053) (729810, 5304264) (729405, 5304144) (729135, 5304251) (729101, 
5304059) (729320, 5303825) (727964, 5303006) (727334, 5303045) (727089, 
5302855) (726609, 5302800) (726516, 5302637) (726830, 5302264) (726445, 
5301919) (724518, 5301367) (723652, 5300965) (723501, 5300737) (722965, 
5300632) (722812, 5300338) (721326, 5300238) (720228, 5299608) (719308, 
5299518) (718671, 5298863) (718624, 5298456) (717670, 5298415) (716949, 
5297924) (715827, 5297524) (714954, 5297590) (712491, 5297135) (711069, 
5296216) (710648, 5295310) (709710, 5295110) (708213, 5295249) (705711, 
5294564) (705041, 5294110) (703534, 5293553) (701983, 5292695) (701385, 
5292787) (700523, 5292357) (699990, 5291909) (699935, 5291459) (699804, 
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5325953) (512930, 5326430) (511998, 5326686) (511698, 5326990) (511632, 
5327341) (512105, 5329844) (509959, 5332883) (508686, 5336361) (507215, 
5339197) (507099, 5339896) (506747, 5340383) (505859, 5341024) (505485,

[[Page 8670]]

5341885) (505444, 5342628) (504994, 5343801) (504852, 5344845) (503679, 
5346713) (502368, 5347909) (502181, 5349437) (502770, 5351607) (502860, 
5352596) (502622, 5356946) (498612, 5360866) (496593, 5361679) (485071, 
5361986) (483248, 5363488) (482602, 5363599) (482417, 5363984) (475760, 
5370614) (473925, 5370853) (472390, 5372660) (472356, 5378109) (470344, 
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5384248) (474048, 5384431) (474036, 5384795) (474388, 5385823) (474548, 
5385919) (481219, 5387737) (484788, 5387620) (485851, 5386598), 
excluding the island polygons bounded by the following coordinates: 
(546982, 5297486) (547390, 5297486) (547390, 5297078) (546982, 5297078) 
(546982, 5297486) (546582, 5297486) (546582, 5296686) (546982, 5296686) 
(546982, 5295075) (548604, 5295010) (548636, 5294395) (549035, 5294744) 
(549209, 5294714) (548991, 5294946) (549118, 5295446) (550064, 5295302) 
(550654, 5295491) (550627, 5295717) (550772, 5295819) (551147, 5295794) 
(550509, 5296142) (550590, 5296557) (550700, 5296679) (550882, 5296549) 
(551184, 5296886) (551806, 5297048) (551805, 5297285) (551560, 5297461) 
(551395, 5297158) (551015, 5297119) (550801, 5297195) (550803, 5297409) 
(550626, 5297206) (550226, 5297611) (549696, 5297639) (549730, 5297462) 
(550257, 5297179) (550060, 5296818) (549570, 5296788) (549355, 5297045) 
(549076, 5296918) (548901, 5297169) (548637, 5297063) (548182, 5297486) 
(548182, 5298287) (547782, 5298287) (547782, 5297886) (546982, 5297886) 
(546982, 5297486), and excluding the island polygons bounded by the 
following coordinates: (620214, 5238106) (620245, 5236496) (621852, 
5236533) (621903, 5234896) (623485, 5234904) (623455, 5236528) (625064, 
5236573) (625051, 5238228) (626640, 5238269) (626567, 5241495) (624962, 
5241459) (624942, 5243061) (623327, 5243035) (623340, 5241425) (621725, 
5241388) (621690, 5244578) (620112, 5244552) (620214, 5238106).
    (iii) Map of Unit 2, Northeastern Minnesota, follows:
BILLING CODE 4310-55-P
[GRAPHIC] [TIFF OMITTED] TR25FE09.002

    (7) Unit 3: Northern Rocky Mountains; Boundary County, Idaho; 
Flathead, Glacier, Granite, Lake, Lewis and Clark, Lincoln, Missoula, 
Pondera, Powell, and Teton Counties, Montana.
    (i) Coordinate Projection: UTM, NAD83, Zone 12, Meters. Coordinate 
Definition: (easting, northing).
    (ii) Polygon bounded by the following coordinates: (122575, 
5440417) (157217, 5438140) (157554, 5436275) (158180, 5436163) (158504, 
5436804) (158713, 5436719) (159139, 5436012) (160089, 5436595) (160868, 
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5428199) (153103, 5428293) (153339, 5428221) (153721, 5427723) (154019, 
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5430009) (155449, 5429785) (155722, 5429395) (156561, 5429719) (156775, 
5428869) (156621, 5428580) (155997, 5428207) (155890, 5427397) (156033, 
5426939) (155935,

[[Page 8671]]

5426675) (156137, 5426261) (156427, 5426502) (156766, 5426067) (156779, 
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[[Page 8672]]

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[[Page 8673]]

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[[Page 8674]]

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5377238) (228329,

[[Page 8675]]

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[[Page 8676]]

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[[Page 8677]]

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[[Page 8678]]

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[[Page 8679]]

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[[Page 8680]]

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[[Page 8681]]

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[[Page 8682]]

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[[Page 8683]]

5368174) (278490, 5368592) (278620, 5368900) (278444, 5368972) (278465, 
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5406489) (292671, 5405296) (292380, 5405244) (292336, 5404577) (291801,

[[Page 8684]]

5404470) (291505, 5404571) (289114, 5406546) (288153, 5406968) (288084, 
5406625) (288238, 5406488) (291179, 5404298) (291547, 5403763) (292602, 
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5409111) (261012, 5409539) (261961, 5410179) (262902, 5411352) (263497, 
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5420858) (255329, 5421009) (254837, 5420859) (254428, 5421731) (254148, 
5421905) (254001, 5421820) (253467, 5422396) (253433, 5422792) (253708, 
5423219) (253590, 5423507) (253810, 5423560) (253863, 5424292) (254382, 
5425235) (254660, 5425333) (254725, 5425549) (254564, 5425614) (254640, 
5425386) (254314, 5425313) (253888, 5424879) (253533, 5424219) (253200, 
5424426) (253410, 5424997) (253337, 5425328) (252834, 5424519) (252180, 
5424878) (251880, 5425475) (252044, 5426033) (251759, 5425845) (251861, 
5427788) (251687, 5427449) (251668, 5426674) (251453, 5426409) (251229, 
5426966) (251252, 5427549) (251015, 5427668) (250973, 5428059) (251166, 
5428965) (251924, 5430593) (251495, 5430382) (250738, 5428827) (250176, 
5428390) (250245, 5429947) (250110, 5429607) (250197, 5429195) (249858, 
5429170) (249589, 5429783) (249556, 5430536) (249302, 5430159) (248371, 
5431627) (248359, 5431927) (248069, 5431952) (247988, 5432381) (247711, 
5432437) (247231, 5433003) (247219, 5433212) (247372, 5433204), 
excluding the island polygons bounded by the following coordinates: 
(289728, 5296719) (287436, 5297700) (285628, 5297666) (286024, 5294148) 
(285732, 5291528) (285682, 5288116) (286591, 5288133) (286606, 5287337) 
(286973, 5285979) (289243, 5280109) (290182, 5278535) (291698, 5276517) 
(291954, 5275043) (291861, 5273905) (292665, 5273465) (293262, 5271998) 
(293071, 5270061) (294239, 5268378) (295509, 5267378) (296804, 5265015) 
(297875, 5262534) (298201, 5257310) (298100, 5256625) (298921, 5255277) 
(299400, 5254035) (299537, 5252787) (301306, 5255435) (303208, 5257063) 
(303528, 5258206) (302400, 5257730) (301508, 5256804) (299903, 5257455) 
(300216, 5258940) (299920, 5262572) (300583, 5263608) (299151, 5267220) 
(296826, 5275931) (294813, 5280214) (294077, 5283043) (293565, 5286103) 
(293435, 5293036) (291919, 5295055) (289728, 5296719).
    (viii) Polygon bounded by the following coordinates: (326871, 
5210120) (327424, 5209899) (327295, 5209641) (327488, 5209523) (328236, 
5209476) (328997, 5209807) (329431, 5209438) (330142, 5209852) (330788, 
5209174) (331487, 5209014) (331418, 5207714) (331705, 5207425) (332150, 
5207259) (332509, 5208096) (332990, 5208145) (333602, 5207675) (333839, 
5207184) (334566, 5207011) (334800, 5206680) (335436, 5206304) (335664, 
5206282) (335773, 5206900) (336698, 5206851) (337026, 5206509) (337182, 
5206057) (337652, 5205999) (339219, 5204579) (338270, 5202452) (338378, 
5202256) (338777, 5202555) (339018, 5202445) (338860, 5201497) (338505, 
5201615) (338404, 5201416) (338806, 5200500) (339318, 5200343) (339056, 
5199944) (339093, 5199623) (339606, 5199216) (340049, 5198272) (339423, 
5196824) (337813, 5196477) (337387, 5196235) (337028, 5195697) (337429, 
5195494) (337987, 5195465) (340078, 5196167) (341546, 5195996) (342161,

[[Page 8685]]

5196156) (341894, 5195705) (340373, 5195393) (339781, 5195118) (339351, 
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[[Page 8686]]

5207231) (323491, 5207838) (323604, 5208291) (323433, 5208958) (324007, 
5210163) (324344, 5210352) (324726, 5210140) (325212, 5210235) (325668, 
5209963) (326364, 5210500) (326597, 5210456) (326871, 5210120).
    (ix) Polygon bounded by the following coordinates: (357993, 
5186542) (358588, 5186497) (358871, 5186031) (360577, 5185555) (360879, 
5185024) (361640, 5184800) (362405, 5184016) (363210, 5183674) (363621, 
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5188632) (356922, 5187832) (357993, 5186542).
    (x) Map of Unit 3, Northern Rocky Mountains, follows:
BILLING CODE 4310-55-P

[[Page 8687]]

[GRAPHIC] [TIFF OMITTED] TR25FE09.003


[[Page 8688]]


    (8) Unit 4: North Cascades; Chelan and Okanogan Counties, 
Washington.
    (i) Coordinate Projection: UTM, NAD83, Zone 11, Meters. Coordinate 
Definition: (easting, northing).
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5377737) (270236,

[[Page 8689]]

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[[Page 8690]]

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[[Page 8691]]

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[[Page 8692]]

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[[Page 8693]]

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[[Page 8694]]

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    (ix) Map of Unit 4, North Cascades, follows:
BILLING CODE 4310-55-P

[[Page 8695]]

[GRAPHIC] [TIFF OMITTED] TR25FE09.004

BILLING CODE 4310-55-C

[[Page 8696]]

    (9) Unit 5: Greater Yellowstone Area; Gallatin, Park, Sweetgrass, 
Stillwater, and Carbon Counties in Montana; Park, Teton, Fremont, 
Sublette, and Lincoln Counties, Wyoming.
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4851643) (596328,

[[Page 8697]]

4851546) (597492, 4850728) (597573, 4851141) (598014, 4851409) (598088, 
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[[Page 8698]]

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[[Page 8699]]

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[[Page 8700]]

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[[Page 8701]]

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5042951) (490209, 5042968) (490223, 5043754) (491780, 5043766) (491819, 
5044561) (492632, 5044560) (492676, 5046198) (493467, 5046194) (493484, 
5047816) (498281, 5047858) (498283, 5049413) (499908, 5049392) (499886, 
5047818) (506256, 5047799) (506324, 5054207) (509483, 5054240) (509493, 
5052644) (511076, 5052678) (511168, 5051048) (513098, 5051064) (514029, 
5049654) (515824, 5047750) (514387, 5047760) (514364, 5041518) (519144, 
5041535) (519235, 5041339) (519223, 5034917) (517615, 5034883) (517655, 
5026801) (516066, 5026790) (516074, 5025210) (514464, 5025214) (514438, 
5022021) (511258, 5022001) (511264, 5020400) (508075, 5020345) (508056, 
5014012) (506519, 5013997) (506521, 5012143) (504953, 5012137) (504897, 
5005826) (503305, 5005800) (503310, 5004195) (501716, 5004185) (501708, 
5002565) (497955, 5002563) (497946, 5000607) (496365, 5000590) (496356, 
4997324) (498127, 4997332) (498483, 4997829) (499326, 4998306) (499545, 
4998126) (499591, 4997330) (502748, 4997392) (502749, 4998978) (505971, 
4999016) (505968, 5002546) (506548, 5002552) (506539, 5004162) (507736, 
5004047) (507928, 5004182) (508009, 5004005) (508348, 5003998) (508351, 
5003595) (509157, 5003603) (509155, 5005614) (513964, 5005616) (513976, 
5007224) (515587, 5007272) (515605, 5008065) (517169, 5008090) (517166, 
5008885) (517562, 5008910) (517517, 5012228) (518705, 5012248) (518731, 
5013041) (520352, 5013051) (520341, 5013854) (520739, 5013860) (520747, 
5014258) (521145, 5014271) (521147, 5015471) (521990, 5015470) (521983, 
5017064) (522782, 5017074) (522782, 5017884) (523591, 5017904) (523582, 
5019943) (523982, 5019949) (523989, 5020350) (533177, 5020385) (533168, 
5022011) (533851, 5022114) (533797, 5029848) (533988, 5029884) (533795, 
5029975) (533779, 5033366) (535307, 5033411) (535315, 5036607) (536926, 
5036625) (536888, 5041518) (538517, 5041529) (538247, 5051033) (544713, 
5051065) (544714, 5050774) (549611, 5050883) (549610, 5050575) (550414, 
5050579) (550436, 5049775) (551226, 5049783) (551262, 5047790) (552872, 
5047796) (552875, 5046982) (552074, 5046979) (552078, 5046189) (552495, 
5046191) (552500, 5044571) (571035, 5044830) (571042, 5044023) (573851, 
5044060) (573759, 5053096) (574157, 5052926) (574199, 5052222) (574636, 
5051974) (574780, 5051540) (575142, 5051164) (574872, 5050594) (575057, 
5049809) (575485, 5049471) (575961, 5048756) (576562, 5048473) (576032, 
5047010) (576164, 5046493) (576405, 5046711) (577360, 5046694) (577545, 
5046830) (577536, 5047241) (577761, 5047783) (577572, 5049101) (577708, 
5049316) (577426, 5049936) (577459, 5050304) (577678, 5050493) (577705, 
5051142) (578545, 5051890) (578330, 5052550) (578358, 5053440) (578953, 
5054377) (579362, 5054567) (579839, 5054454) (579823, 5055204) (580304, 
5056095) (580862, 5056730) (580928, 5057592) (583329, 5057658).
    (iii) Map of Unit 5, Greater Yellowstone Area, follows:
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[[Page 8702]]

[GRAPHIC] [TIFF OMITTED] TR25FE09.005


    Dated: February 12, 2009.
Jane Lyder,
Assistant Deputy Secretary, Department of the Interior.
[FR Doc. E9-3512 Filed 2-24-09; 8:45 am]
BILLING CODE 4310-55-C