[Federal Register Volume 77, Number 10 (Tuesday, January 17, 2012)]
[Proposed Rules]
[Pages 2254-2256]
From the Federal Register Online via the Government Publishing Office [www.gpo.gov]
[FR Doc No: 2012-662]



Fish and Wildlife Service

50 CFR Part 17

[Docket No. FWS-R4-ES-2010-0024; 4500030114]
RIN 1018-AW89

Endangered and Threatened Wildlife and Plants; Designation of 
Critical Habitat for Mississippi Gopher Frog

AGENCY: Fish and Wildlife Service, Interior.

ACTION: Revised proposed rule; reopening of comment period and 
announcement of public hearing.


SUMMARY: We, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, announce the reopening 
of the public comment period on our September 27, 2011, revised 
proposed rule to designate critical habitat for the Mississippi gopher 
frog (Rana sevosa) [=Rana capito sevosa] under the Endangered Species 
Act of 1973, as amended (Act). We are reopening the comment period to 
announce changes in methodology from the revised proposed rule and to 
allow all interested parties another opportunity to comment on the 
revised proposed rule. Comments previously submitted need not be 
resubmitted and will be fully considered in preparation of the final 
rule. We will also hold a public informational session and hearing (see 
DATES and ADDRESSES sections).

DATES: Written Comments: We will consider comments received on or 
before March 2, 2012. Comments must be received by 11:59 p.m. Eastern 
Time on the closing date.
    Public informational session and public hearing: We will hold a 
public informational session from 6 p.m. to 7 p.m., followed by a 
public hearing from 7 p.m. to 9 p.m., on January 31, 2012, in Gulfport, 

ADDRESSES: Written Comments: You may submit comments by one of the 
following methods:
     Federal eRulemaking Portal: http://www.regulations.gov. In 
the box that reads ''Enter Keyword or ID,'' enter the Docket number for 
this proposed rule, which is FWS-R4-ES-2010-0024. Then, click on the 
search button. Please ensure that you have found the correct rulemaking 
before submitting your comment.
     U.S. mail or hand delivery: Public Comments Processing, 
Attn: Docket No. FWS-R4-ES-2010-0024; Division of Policy and Directives 
Management; U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service; 4401 N. Fairfax Drive, MS 
2042-PDM; Arlington, VA 22203.

Public Informational Session and Public Hearing

    The public informational session and hearing will be held at 
Gulfport High School (auditorium), 100 Perry Street, Gulfport, 
Mississippi 39507.
    People needing reasonable accommodations in order to attend and 
participate in the public hearing should contact Stephen Ricks, 
Mississippi Ecological Services Field Office, at (601) 321-1122, as 
soon as possible (see FOR FURTHER INFORMATION CONTACT). In order to 
allow sufficient time to process requests, please call no later than 
one week before the hearing date (see DATES).

FOR FURTHER INFORMATION CONTACT: Stephen Ricks, Field Supervisor, U.S. 
Fish and Wildlife Service, Mississippi Ecological Services Field 
Office, 6578 Dogwood View Parkway, Jackson, MS 39213; by telephone 
(601) 321-1122; facsimile (505) 346-2542. Persons who use a 
telecommunications device for the deaf (TDD) may call the Federal 
Information Relay Service (FIRS) at (800) 877-8339.



    It is our intent to discuss only those topics directly relevant to 
the revised proposed rule to designate critical habitat for the 
Mississippi gopher frog in this document.
    On September 27, 2011, we published a revised proposed rule (76 FR 
59774) to designate critical habitat for the Mississippi gopher frog, 
and announced the availability of the draft economic analysis (DEA) for 
the revised proposed critical habitat designation. For a description of 
previous Federal actions concerning the Mississippi gopher frog, please 
refer to the revised proposed rule. In response to comments we received 
during the public comment period that opened on September 27, 2011 and 
closed on November 28, 2011, we have decided to allow the public more 
time to submit comments and to hold an informational session and public 
hearing (as described above), and to modify the revised proposed rule 
as described below.

Changes From the Revised Proposed Rule

    As the starting point for delineating Mississippi gopher frog 
critical habitat in our revised proposed rule (76 FR 59774), we used 
the median value of all data available to us on maximum distance 
movements of gopher frogs between their breeding ponds and upland 
habitats. However, in that revised proposed rule, we stated we used the 
mean value instead of the median. Of the two peer reviewers that 
commented during the comment period that closed on November 28, 2011, 
on whether the median or the mean of the maximum movement distances is 
most appropriate to use in the critical habitat delineation, one 
reviewer preferred the median and the other preferred the mean.
    Determining the optimum value to use in calculating the amount of 
habitat necessary for Mississippi gopher frog conservation is 
difficult, in part because the data were collected from different 
States, in studies with different objectives, and in habitat of 
differing quality. The maximum distance gopher frogs moved varied 
considerably among studies. At the low end of the range is a value of 
240 meters (m) (787 feet (ft)) from one Mississippi gopher frog study, 
and at the upper end of the range is 3,500 m (11,483 ft) for a gopher 
frog study in North Carolina.
    At the suggestion of one peer reviewer, we amended our methodology 
by combining all movement data from different studies conducted at the 
same site (Richter et al. 2001 and Tupy and Pechmann 2011, combined; 
Roznik 2007, Roznik and Johnson 2009a, and Roznik et al. 2009, 
combined) and discarding one field observation (Carr 1940) that did not 
provide specific data on breeding pond or upland habitat use. Based on 
the peer review comments we received and our further review of 
available data, we have determined the maximum movement distance values 
to be those provided in the table below. We continue to believe that 
the median, rather than the mean, is a more appropriate value to use in 
the delineation of critical habitat due to the skewed distribution of 
the data, and accordingly identified the median of the values in the 
    Table 1. Movement of gopher frogs between wetland and upland 
sites*. Distance data represent the maximum straight line distance 
between the middle (except where noted) of a breeding pond and upland 
burrow sites for each gopher frog study. The gopher

[[Page 2255]]

frog species in each study is Rana capito unless otherwise stated. 
Median value of distances = 571 m (1,873 ft).

             Distance                      Citation            Frogs in
1 299 m (981 ft).................  Richter et al. 2001                29
                                    [Rana sevosa]; Tupy and
                                    Pechmann 2011 [Rana
2 300 m (984 ft).................  Phillips 1995/Rostal                7
                                    1999 [distance from
                                    pond edge] **.
3 525 m (1,722 ft)...............  Neufeldt and Birkhead              12
4 571 m (1,873 ft)...............  Blihovde 2006...........            9
5 862 m (2,828 ft)...............  Roznik 2007                        43
                                    *(observation); Roznik
                                    and Johnson 2009a;
                                    Roznik et al. 2009.
6 2,000 m (6,562 ft).............  Franz et al. 1988*                  1
                                    [distance from pond
7 3,500 m (11,483 ft)............  Humphries and Sisson                9
* Telemetry data unless otherwise noted.
** Distance recorded from pond edge, rather than the middle of the pond.

    As a result of the changes described above, we propose to amend the 
value used in constructing the area of critical habitat around a 
breeding pond from 600 m (1,969 ft) to 571 m (1,873 ft). As set forth 
in the revised proposed rule, this value would be increased by 50 m 
(164 ft) to provide a buffer to minimize the edge effects of the 
surrounding land use. Therefore, we are providing notice to the public 
that we are revising our proposed critical habitat delineation around 
the ponds by using a radius of 621 m (2,037 ft), rather than the 650 m 
(2,133 ft) used in our September 27, 2011, revised proposed rule (76 FR 
59774). Given the limited amount of data available to us on the 
movements of gopher frogs, we are requesting submission of any 
additional data not already in our possession and are also requesting 
comments on our revised methodology as described above. Because the 
changes described above will result in very minor changes to the 
mapping of the units, we have not revised the maps for this document. 
However, the revised maps will be available for closer inspection at 
the field office, on http://www.regulations.gov, and at the upcoming 
public hearing.
    If we finalize the rule using the methodology described above, we 
would designate approximately 2,646 hectares (ha) (6,538 acres (ac)) as 
critical habitat for the Mississippi gopher frog in 12 units, 3 of 
which are divided into 2 subunits each. This would be a reduction of 
193 ha (477 ac) from the September 27, 2011, revised proposed rule 
(2,839 ha (7,015 ac)). The critical habitat would be located within St. 
Tammany Parish, Louisiana, and Forrest, Harrison, Jackson, and Perry 
Counties, Mississippi. The final decision on whether to designate the 
critical habitat, as proposed, will be based on the best scientific 
data available, including information obtained during the comment 
period reopened by this document and at the upcoming public 
informational session and public hearing (see DATES and ADDRESSES).

Public Comments

    We will accept written comments and information during this 
reopened comment period for the revised proposed rule to designate 
critical habitat for the Mississippi gopher frog that was published in 
the Federal Register on September 27, 2011 (76 FR 59774), as revised by 
this document. We intend that any final action resulting from this 
revised proposed rule will be based on the best scientific and 
commercial data available and be as accurate and as effective as 
possible. Therefore, we request comments or information from other 
concerned government agencies, the scientific community, industry, or 
other interested parties concerning this revised proposed rule. Verbal 
testimony or written comments may also be presented during the public 
hearing. We will consider information and recommendations from all 
interested parties. We are particularly interested in comments 
    (1) The reasons why we should or should not designate habitat as 
``critical habitat'' under section 4 of the Act (16 U.S.C. 1531 et 
seq.), including whether there are threats to the species from human 
activity, the degree of which can be expected to increase due to the 
designation, and whether that increase in threat outweighs the benefit 
of designation such that the designation of critical habitat may not be 
    (2) Specific information on:
    (a) The amount and distribution of Mississippi gopher frog habitat;
    (b) What areas, that were occupied at the time of listing (or are 
currently occupied) and that contain features essential to the 
conservation of the species, should be included in the designation and 
    (c) Special management considerations or protection that may be 
needed in critical habitat areas we are proposing, including managing 
for the potential effects of climate change; and
    (d) What areas not occupied at the time of listing are essential 
for the conservation of the species and why.
    (3) Land-use designations and current or planned activities in the 
subject areas and their possible impacts on proposed critical habitat.
    (4) Information on the projected and reasonably likely impacts of 
climate change on the Mississippi gopher frog and proposed critical 
    (5) Any probable economic, national security, or other relevant 
impacts of designating any area (especially Unit 1 in St. Tammany 
Parish, Louisiana) that may be included in the final designation; in 
particular, we seek information on any impacts on small entities or 
families, and the benefits of including or excluding areas that exhibit 
these impacts.
    (6) Whether any specific areas we are proposing for critical 
habitat designation should be considered for exclusion under section 
4(b)(2) of the Act, and whether the benefits of potentially excluding 
any specific area outweigh the benefits of including that area under 
section 4(b)(2) of the Act.
    (7) Whether we could improve or modify our approach to designation 
of critical habitat in any way to provide for greater public 
participation and understanding, or to better accommodate public 
concerns and comments.
    (8) The appropriateness of the taxonomic name change of the 
Mississippi gopher frog from Rana capito sevosa to Rana sevosa.
    (9) The appropriateness of the methodology used for delineating the 
proposed critical habitat (including any

[[Page 2256]]

data that might help further refine these areas).
    If you previously submitted comments or information on the revised 
proposed rule, please do not resubmit them. We will incorporate them 
into the public record as part of this comment period, and we will 
fully consider them in the preparation of our final determination. Our 
final determination will take into consideration all written comments 
and public testimony from the public hearing mentioned above.
    You may submit your comments and materials concerning the revised 
proposed rule by one of the methods listed in the ADDRESSES section.
    We will post your entire comment--including your personal 
identifying information--on http://www.regulations.gov. If you provide 
personal identifying information, such as your street address, phone 
number, or email address, you may request at the top of your document 
that we withhold this information from public review. However, we 
cannot guarantee that we will be able to do so.
    Comments and materials we receive, as well as supporting 
documentation we used in preparing the revised proposed rule, will be 
available for public inspection on http://www.regulations.gov at Docket 
No. FWS-R4-ES-2010-0024, or by appointment, during normal business 
hours, at the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, Mississippi Ecological 
Services Field Office (see FOR FURTHER INFORMATION CONTACT). You may 
obtain copies of the revised proposed rule on the Internet at http://www.regulations.gov at Docket Number FWS-R4-ES-2010-0024, or by mail 
from the Mississippi Ecological Services Field Office (see FOR FURTHER 


    The primary author of this notice is the Mississippi Ecological 
Services Field Office, Region 4, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.


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

    Dated: January 9, 2012.
Eileen Sobeck,
Acting Assistant Secretary for Fish and Wildlife and Parks.
[FR Doc. 2012-662 Filed 1-13-12; 8:45 am]