[Federal Register Volume 79, Number 224 (Thursday, November 20, 2014)]
[Rules and Regulations]
[Pages 69311-69363]
From the Federal Register Online via the Government Publishing Office [www.gpo.gov]
[FR Doc No: 2014-27113]



[[Page 69311]]

Vol. 79

Thursday,

No. 224

November 20, 2014

Part III





 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; Designation of Critical 
Habitat for Gunnison Sage-Grouse; Final Rule

Federal Register / Vol. 79 , No. 224 / Thursday, November 20, 2014 / 
Rules and Regulations

[[Page 69312]]


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DEPARTMENT OF THE INTERIOR

Fish and Wildlife Service

50 CFR Part 17

[Docket No. FWS-R6-ES-2011-0111; 4500030114]
RIN 1018-AX71


Endangered and Threatened Wildlife and Plants; Designation of 
Critical Habitat for Gunnison Sage-Grouse

AGENCY: Fish and Wildlife Service, Interior.

ACTION: Final rule.

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SUMMARY: We, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (Service), designate 
critical habitat for the Gunnison sage-grouse (Centrocercus minimus) 
under the Endangered Species Act (Act). In total, approximately 
1,429,551 acres (ac) (578,515 hectares (ha)) are designated as critical 
habitat in Delta, Dolores, Gunnison, Hinsdale, Mesa, Montrose, Ouray, 
Saguache, and San Miguel Counties in Colorado; and in Grand and San 
Juan Counties in Utah. The effect of this regulation is to conserve 
Gunnison sage-grouse habitat under the Act.

DATES: This rule becomes effective on December 22, 2014.

ADDRESSES: This final rule is available on the internet at http://www.regulations.gov and at the Service's species Web site for Gunnison 
sage-grouse, at http://www.fws.gov/mountain-prairie/species/birds/gunnisonsagegrouse/. Comments and materials we received, as well as 
supporting documentation used in preparing this final rule, are 
available for public inspection at http://www.regulations.gov. All of 
the comments, materials, and documentation that we considered in this 
rulemaking will be made available by appointment, during normal 
business hours at the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, Western Colorado 
Field Office, 445 West Gunnison Ave., Suite 240, Grand Junction, CO 
81501; telephone 970-243-2778.
    The coordinates from which the critical habitat maps are generated 
are included in the administrative record for this rulemaking and are 
available at http://www.regulations.gov at Docket No. FWS-R6-ES-2011-
0111, at http://www.fws.gov/mountain-prairie/species/birds/gunnisonsagegrouse/, and at the Western Colorado Field Office (see FOR 
FURTHER INFORMATION CONTACT). Any additional tools or supporting 
information that we developed for this critical habitat designation 
will also be available at the Fish and Wildlife Service Web site and 
Field Office set out above, and may also be included in the preamble 
and at http://www.regulations.gov.

FOR FURTHER INFORMATION CONTACT: Susan Linner, Western Colorado 
Supervisor, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, Western Colorado Field 
Office, 445 West Gunnison Ave., Suite 240, Grand Junction, CO 81501; 
telephone 970-243-2778; facsimile 970-245-6933. If you use a 
telecommunications device for the deaf (TDD), call the Federal 
Information Relay Service (FIRS) at 800-877-8339.

SUPPLEMENTARY INFORMATION: 

Executive Summary

    Why we need to publish a rule. This is a final rule to designate 
critical habitat for the Gunnison sage-grouse. Under the Endangered 
Species Act of 1973, as amended (16 U.S.C. 1531 et seq.) (Act), any 
species that is determined to be an endangered or threatened species 
requires critical habitat to be designated, to the maximum extent 
prudent and determinable. Designations and revisions of critical 
habitat can only be completed by issuing a rule.
    Elsewhere in today's Federal Register, we, the U.S. Fish and 
Wildlife Service (Service), publish a final rule to list the Gunnison 
sage-grouse as a threatened species under the Act. On January 11, 2013, 
we published in the Federal Register a proposed rule to designate 
critical habitat for the species (78 FR 2540). Section 4(b)(2) of the 
Act states that the Secretary shall designate 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 critical habitat areas we are designating in this rule 
constitute our current best assessment of the areas that meet the 
definition of critical habitat for Gunnison sage-grouse. Here we are 
designating approximately 1,429,551 acres (ac) (578,515 hectares (ha)) 
in six units in Delta, Dolores, Gunnison, Hinsdale, Mesa, Montrose, 
Ouray, Saguache, and San Miguel Counties in Colorado, and in Grand and 
San Juan Counties in Utah.
    This rule consists of: A final rule designating critical habitat 
for the Gunnison sage-grouse. The Gunnison sage-grouse is concurrently 
being listed as threatened under the Act, in a separate rule elsewhere 
in today's Federal Register. This rule designates critical habitat 
necessary for the conservation of the species.
    We have prepared an economic analysis of the designation of 
critical habitat. In order to consider economic impacts, we prepared an 
analysis of the economic impacts of the critical habitat designations 
and related factors. We announced the availability of the draft 
economic analysis (DEA) in the Federal Register on September 19, 2013 
(78 FR 57604), allowing the public to provide comments on our analysis. 
We have incorporated the comments into our analysis and have completed 
the final economic analysis (FEA) concurrently with this final 
determination.
    Peer review and public comment. We sought comments on our proposed 
critical habitat rule (as well as our proposal to list the species) 
from independent and appropriate specialists to ensure that our 
designation is based on scientifically sound data and analyses. We 
obtained opinions from five knowledgeable individuals with relevant 
scientific expertise to review our technical assumptions, analysis, and 
whether or not we had used the best available information. One peer 
reviewer concluded that our proposals included a thorough and accurate 
review of the available scientific and commercial data on Gunnison 
sage-grouse, but did not provide substantive comments. The remaining 
four letters provided additional relevant information on biology, 
threats, and scientific research for the species. Two peer review 
letters were generally in opposition to the proposals and questioned 
our rationale and determinations. Information we received from peer 
review is considered and incorporated as appropriate in this final 
revised designation. We also considered all comments and information 
received from the public during each comment period.

Previous Federal Actions

    Please see the proposed (78 FR 2486, January 11, 2013) and final 
listing rules (published elsewhere in today's Federal Register) for a 
history of previous Federal actions related to Gunnison sage-grouse 
prior to January 11, 2013.
    On January 11, 2013, we published in the Federal Register a 
proposed rule to list Gunnison sage-grouse as endangered (78 FR 2486), 
and a proposed rule to designate critical habitat for the species (78 
FR 2540). We proposed to designate as critical habitat approximately 
1,704,227 acres (689,675 hectares) in seven units located in Chaffee, 
Delta, Dolores, Gunnison, Hinsdale, Mesa, Montrose, Ouray, Saguache, 
and San Miguel Counties in Colorado, and in Grand and San Juan Counties 
in Utah. Those proposals initially had a 60-day

[[Page 69313]]

comment period, ending March 12, 2013, but we extended the comment 
period by an additional 21 days, through April 2, 2013 (78 FR 15925, 
March 13, 2013).
    On July 19, 2013, we extended the timeline for making final 
determinations on both proposed rules by 6 months due to scientific 
disagreement regarding the sufficiency and accuracy of the available 
data relevant to the proposals, and we reopened the public comment 
period to seek additional information to clarify the issues in question 
(78 FR 43123). In accordance with that July 19, 2013, publication, we 
indicated our intent to submit a final listing determination and a 
final critical habitat designation for Gunnison sage-grouse to the 
Federal Register on or before March 31, 2014.
    On September 19, 2013, we announced in the Federal Register the 
availability of the draft economic analysis and a draft environmental 
assessment prepared pursuant to the National Environmental Policy Act 
(NEPA) for the proposed critical habitat designation, and reopened the 
public comment period until October 19, 2013 (78 FR 57604). The draft 
economic analysis (IEc 2013, entire) was prepared to identify and 
evaluate the economic impacts of the proposed critical habitat 
designation. We also reopened the public comment period from November 
4, 2013, through December 2, 2013, and announced the rescheduling of 
three public hearings on the proposed listing and critical habitat 
rules due to delays caused by the lapse in government appropriations in 
October 2013 (78 FR 65936, November 4, 2013). All substantive 
information received during all public comment periods related to the 
critical habitat designation, economic analysis, and environmental 
assessment have been incorporated directly into the final versions of 
those documents, or addressed below (see Peer Review and Public 
Comments).
    On February 11, 2014, we announced a 6-week extension to May 12, 
2014, for our final decision on our proposed listing and critical 
habitat rules (USFWS 2014e). This extension was granted by the Court 
due to delays caused by the lapse in government appropriations in 
October 2013, and the resulting need to reopen a public comment period 
and reschedule public hearings. On May 6, 2014, we announced a 6-month 
extension to November 12, 2014, as approved by the Court, to make our 
final listing and critical habitat decisions (USFWS 2014f).

Summary of Changes From Proposed Rule

     We refined some critical habitat boundaries based the most 
recent occupied habitat spatial layers by Colorado Parks and Wildlife 
(CPW). We also modified the unoccupied habitat in the Sanborn Park/Iron 
Springs area to better match CPW's mapping. We also deleted one 
unoccupied polygon (Bostwick Park) in the Cerro Summit area based on 
the low likelihood of this area supporting birds.
     Although we previously proposed designating a critical 
habitat unit in Poncha Pass, information received since the publication 
of the proposed rule has caused us to reevaluate the appropriateness of 
including the unit. Poncha Pass is thought to have been part of the 
historical distribution of Gunnison sage-grouse. There were no grouse 
there, however, when a population was established via transplant from 
30 Gunnison Basin birds in 1971 and 1972. In 1992, hunters harvested at 
least 30 grouse from the population when CPW inadvertently opened the 
area to hunting. We have no information on the population's trends 
until 1999 when the population was estimated at roughly 25 birds. In 
one year, the population declined to less than 5 grouse, when more 
grouse were brought in, again from the Gunnison Basin, in 2000 and 
2001. In 2002, the population rose to just over 40 grouse, but starting 
in 2006, the population again started declining until no grouse were 
detected in lek surveys in the spring of 2013 (after publication of the 
proposed critical habitat rule). Grouse were again brought in in the 
fall of 2013 and 2014 and six grouse were counted in the Poncha Pass 
population during the spring 2014 lek count (CPW 2014d, p. 2); however, 
no subsequent evidence of reproduction was found. We now conclude that 
the Poncha Pass area, for reasons unknown, is not a landscape capable 
of supporting a population of Gunnison sage-grouse and therefore does 
not meet primary constituent element (PCE) 1. As a result, we have 
determined that the Poncha Pass area should not be designated as 
critical habitat, and have therefore removed this proposed critical 
habitat unit from the final critical habitat designation.
     Based on peer review and public comments and our analysis, 
this final rule excludes specific properties from the critical habitat 
designation under section 4(b)(2) of the Act, namely private lands 
enrolled in the Gunnison Sage-grouse Candidate Conservation Agreement 
with Assurances (CCAA) as of the effective date of this rule, private 
lands under permanent conservation easement (CE) as of August 28, 2013 
as identified by Lohr and Gray (2013), and private land owned by the 
Ute Mountain Ute Tribe under restricted fee status that is subject to a 
species conservation plan as of the effective date of this final rule 
(see Exclusions). These private land exclusions reduced the total 
critical habitat designation from 1,621,008 ac (655,957 ha) to 
1,429,551 ac (578,515 ha) (see Table 1).
     We modified the boundaries of this critical habitat 
designation around the City of Gunnison. We refined the boundary to 
leave out areas of medium- to high-intensity development, airport 
runways, and golf courses. In all other areas, lands covered by 
buildings, pavement, and other manmade structures, as of the effective 
date of this rule, are not included in this designation, even if they 
occur inside the boundaries of a critical habitat unit, because such 
lands lack physical and biological features essential to the 
conservation of Gunnison sage-grouse, and hence do not constitute 
critical habitat as defined in section 3(5)(A)(i) of the Act.
     Based on comments and recommendations received by peer 
reviewers and the public, in this final rule, we refined our 
description of the PCEs (see Primary Constituent Elements for Gunnison 
Sage-grouse) and have provided more detailed background and rationale 
for the criteria and methods used to identify and map critical habitat 
(see Criteria and Methods Used to Identify and Map Critical Habitat).

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                                                      Table 1--Size and Current Occupancy Status of Gunnison Sage-Grouse in Proposed and Final Designated Critical Habitat Units a
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                                                     Proposed critical habitat                                  Final critical habitat without exclusions                            Final critical habitat with exclusions
     Critical habitat unit      --------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
                                     Ac          Ha          Occupied?          Ac          Ha          Ac          Ha          Occupied?          Ac          Ha          Ac          Ha          Occupied?          Ac          Ha
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Monticello-Dove Creek..........     348,353      14,097  Yes..............     111,945      45,303     348,949     141,214  Yes..............     112,543      45,544     343,000     138,807  Yes..............     107,061      43,326
                                                         No...............     236,408      95,671                          No...............     236,405      95,670                          No...............     235,940      95,481
Pi[ntilde]on Mesa..............     245,179      99,220  Yes..............      38,905      15,744     245,925      99,522  Yes..............      44,678      18,080     207,792      84,087  Yes..............      28,820      11,663
                                                         No...............     206,274      83,476                          No...............     201,247      81,442                          No...............     178,972      72,424
San Miguel Basin...............     165,769      67,084  Yes..............     101,371      41,023     143,277      57,982  Yes..............     101,750      41,177     121,929      49,343  Yes..............      81,514      32,988
                                                         No...............      64,398      26,061                          No...............      41,526      16,805                          No...............      40,414      16,355
Cerro Summit-Cimarron-Sims Mesa      62,708      25,334  Yes..............      37,161      15,038      56,541      22,881  Yes..............      37,161      15,039      52,544      21,264  Yes..............      33,675      13,628
                                                         No...............      25,547      10,339                          No...............      19,380       7,843                          No...............      18,869       7,636
Crawford.......................      97,123       3,930  Yes..............      35,015      14,170      97,124      39,305  Yes..............      35,015      14,170      83,671      33,860  Yes..............      32,632      13,206
                                                         No...............      62,109      25,134                          No...............      62,109      25,134                          No...............      51,039      20,655
Gunnison Basin.................      76,802     298,173  Yes..............     592,952     239,959     729,194     295,053  Yes..............     592,168     239,600     620,616     251,154  Yes..............     500,909     202,711
                                                         No...............     143,850      58,214                          No...............     137,027      55,453                          No...............     119,707      48,444
                                                                                                   -------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
Poncha Pass....................      48,292      19,543  Yes..............      20,416       8,262
                                                         No...............      27,877      11,281                                         Not included in the final critical habitat designation
                                                                                                   -------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
All Units......................   1,704,227     689,675  Yes..............     937,765     379,499   1,621,008     655,957  Yes..............     923,314     349,238   1,429,551     578,515  Yes..............     784,611     317,521
                                                         No...............     766,463     310,176                          No...............     697,694     306,719                          No...............     644,940     260,994
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a Numbers may not sum due to rounding.


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Peer Review and Public Comments

    In our January 11, 2013, proposed rules for Gunnison sage-grouse 
(proposed listing, 78 FR 2486; and proposed critical habitat 
designation, 78 FR 2540), we requested written public comments on the 
proposals. We requested written comments from the public on the 
proposed designation of critical habitat for the Gunnison sage-grouse 
during four comment periods, spanning from January 11, 2013, to 
December 2, 2013 (see Previous Federal Actions). We also requested 
comments on the associated draft economic analysis and environmental 
assessment during two of those comment periods (see Previous Federal 
Actions). We contacted appropriate State and Federal agencies, county 
governments, elected officials, scientific organizations, and other 
interested parties and invited them to comment. We also published 
notices inviting general public comment in local newspapers throughout 
the species' range. From January 11, 2013, to December 2, 2013, we 
received a total of 36,171 comment letters on both proposals. Of those 
letters, approximately 445 were substantive comment letters; 35,535 
were substantive form letters; and 191 were non-substantive comment 
letters.
    Substantive letters generally contained comments pertinent to both 
proposed rules, although the vast majority of comments were related to 
the proposed listing rule. Responses to comments related to the listing 
rule are provided in the final rule to list Gunnison sage-grouse as 
threatened, published elsewhere in today's Federal Register. Also, 
three public hearings were held November 19-21, 2013, in response to 
requests from local and State agencies and governments; oral comments 
were received during that time (see Previous Federal Actions). All 
substantive information related to critical habitat provided during the 
comment periods has been incorporated directly into this final rule or 
addressed below. For the readers' convenience, we combined similar 
comments and responses.

Peer Review

    In accordance with our peer review policy published in the Federal 
Register on July 1, 1994 (59 FR 34270), we solicited and received 
expert opinion from five appropriate and independent individuals with 
scientific expertise on Gunnison sage-grouse biology and conservation. 
The purpose of the peer review is to ensure that our decisions are 
based on scientifically sound data, assumptions, and analyses, based on 
the input of appropriate experts and specialists. We received written 
responses from all five peer reviewers. We reviewed all comments 
received from the peer reviewers for substantive issues and new 
information regarding critical habitat for the Gunnison sage-grouse. 
One peer reviewer concluded that our proposals included a thorough and 
accurate review of the available scientific and commercial data on 
Gunnison sage-grouse, but did not provide substantive comments. The 
remaining four letters provided additional relevant information on 
biology, threats, and scientific research for the species. Two peer 
review letters were generally in opposition to the proposed listing and 
critical habitat designation and questioned our rationale and 
determinations. All substantive comments from peer reviewers related to 
critical habitat are incorporated directly into this final rule or 
addressed in the summary of comments below. For the readers' 
convenience, similar comments and responses are combined.

Comments From Peer Reviewers

    (1) Comment: One peer reviewer commented that we should consider 
including measures of residual grass cover and height in the assessment 
of breeding habitat within the PCEs for Gunnison sage-grouse critical 
habitat.
    Our response: As described in this final rule, habitat structural 
values for breeding habitat (PCE 2) are based on the Gunnison Sage-
grouse Rangewide Conservation Plan (RCP) and are considered average 
values over a given project or area (Gunnison Sage-grouse Rangewide 
Steering Committee (GSRSC) 2005, p. H-6). This comprises the best 
available information for breeding habitat requirements of Gunnison 
sage-grouse. The RCP does not specifically define minimum residual 
grass cover or height (remaining seasonal vegetation following 
livestock grazing) or grazing management for breeding habitats. 
However, the PCE 2 includes habitat structural guidelines that require 
appropriate and cognizant management (i.e., related to livestock 
grazing and forage utilization levels) to ensure that adequate residual 
grass cover and height are achieved and maintained. Thus, we conclude 
that the PCEs indirectly address residual grass cover and height 
requirements for Gunnison sage-grouse. This topic is discussed further 
in the Primary Constituent Elements for Gunnison Sage-grouse section of 
this final rule.
    (2) Comment: A peer reviewer stated that the sagebrush canopy cover 
and height requirements establishing winter habitat seem high, as 
compared to greater sage-grouse needs, and given that sagebrush exposed 
above the snow is the overriding consideration for wintering habitat, 
and this exposure often occurs in wind-blown areas where sagebrush 
cover and height are much less than the numbers presented here.
    Our response: Winter habitat for Gunnison sage-grouse either has 
sufficient shrub height to be above average snow depths, or is exposed 
due to topographic features (e.g., windswept ridges, south-facing 
slopes) (GSRSC 2005, p. H-3). As described in this final rule, habitat 
structural values for winter habitat (PCE 4) are specific to Gunnison 
sage-grouse and its habitat and are based on the RCP and studies that 
quantified vegetation attributes of winter habitat used by Gunnison 
sage-grouse (Hupp 1987, entire; GSRSC 2005, pp. H-2 to H-3). These are 
considered average values over a given project or area (GSRSC 2005, p. 
H-8). This comprises the best available information for the winter 
habitat requirements specific to Gunnison sage-grouse. This topic is 
discussed further in the Primary Constituent Elements for Gunnison 
Sage-grouse section of this final rule.
    (3) Comment: A peer reviewer stated that it is not clear in the 
proposed rule what methods and criteria were used to identify and map 
critical habitat, or why.
    Our response: In this final rule, we expand our description of the 
criteria and methods used to identify and map critical habitat and 
provide detailed rationale for our analysis and approach (see Criteria 
and Methods Used to Identify and Map Critical Habitat).
    (4) Comment: A peer reviewer noted that habitat in Utah at brood 
location sites did not meet the rangewide structural habitat guidelines 
(and by extension, do not contain the proposed PCEs), yet brood 
production, based on small samples sizes, exceeded what was previously 
reported for Colorado (Young 1994, Apa 2004). The peer reviewer 
suggested that these habitat differences were an artifact of the hens 
with broods selecting for Conservation Reserve Program (CRP) fields 
where sagebrush cover was limited to small patches.
    Our response: As indicated in the peer reviewer's information, 
brood production in the subject study area (areas with lower vegetation 
structural values than identified by the RCP and our PCEs) was based on 
a very small sample size--the broods of just three hens were monitored 
during this study (Lupis 2005, p. 28). Therefore, we cannot conclude 
from this study that brood production of Gunnison sage-grouse in Utah 
is higher than observed

[[Page 69316]]

in Colorado, despite lower habitat structural values in the study area.
    As described in this final rule, habitat structural values for 
breeding habitat (PCE 2) are based on the RCP and are considered 
average values over a given project or area (GSRSC 2005, p. H-6). This 
comprises the best available information for breeding habitat 
requirements of Gunnison sage-grouse. Agricultural fields, which 
include CRP lands, are also included in both PCE 2 and PCE 3, because 
the best available science indicates that these lands are sometimes 
used by the species as early brood-rearing and summer-late fall habitat 
when they are part of a landscape that otherwise encompasses the 
species' seasonal habitats. We therefore acknowledge the benefits of 
CRP lands to Gunnison sage-grouse, as habitat provided under this 
program is generally more beneficial to the species than lands under 
more intensive agricultural uses such as crop production. Gunnison 
sage-grouse are known, for example, to regularly use CRP lands in the 
Monticello population (Lupis et al. 2006, pp. 959-960; Ward 2007, p. 
15). In San Juan County, Gunnison sage-grouse use CRP lands in 
proportion to their availability (Lupis et al. 2006, p. 959). However, 
CRP lands are generally lacking in the sagebrush and shrub components 
typically critical to the survival and reproduction of Gunnison sage-
grouse and vary greatly in plant diversity and forb abundance (Lupis et 
al. 2006, pp. 959-960; Prather 2010, p. 32). As such, while these CRP 
lands are considered critical habitat, they are generally of lower 
value or quality than native sagebrush habitats. Future section 7(a)(2) 
consultations regarding the potential effect of a Federal project on 
critical habitat would take into consideration the value or quality of 
the affected habitat.
    The CRP program is evaluated in our final rule to list Gunnison 
sage-grouse as threatened, published elsewhere in today's Federal 
Register.
    (5) Comment: A peer reviewer noted that the total area summarized 
as unoccupied habitat in Table 4 of the proposed critical habitat rule 
approximates estimates provided by the Utah Division of Wildlife for 
Utah based on sagebrush cover. The peer reviewer further noted that 
unoccupied areas north of Highway 491 in Utah approximate rangewide 
habitat guidelines. However within this area, approximately 30,000 
acres would be considered non-habitat (Table 3, San Juan County Working 
Group 2000) because they are largely dominated by pi[ntilde]on-juniper 
(Pinus edulis-Juniperus spp.). Therefore, the peer reviewer suggested 
that many of the areas included in the critical habitat designation may 
not contain suitable habitat.
    Our response: Unoccupied habitat does not need to contain the PCEs, 
the standard is instead ``essential for the conservation of the 
species.'' For occupied habitat at the landscape scale, we consider all 
areas designated as occupied critical habitat here to meet the 
landscape specific PCE (1) and one or more of the seasonally specific 
PCEs (2-5). Although in our final listing rule, published elsewhere in 
today's Federal Register, we found that using a 1.5-km radius (window) 
analysis was not appropriate for evaluating the effects of residential 
development, for our habitat suitability analysis, we found that, at 
the 1.5-km radius scale (or window) (based on Aldridge et al. 2012, p. 
400), areas where at least 25 percent of the land is dominated by 
sagebrush cover (based on Wisdom et al. 2011, pp. 465-467; and Aldridge 
et al. 2008b, pp. 989-990) provided the best estimation of our current 
knowledge of Gunnison sage-grouse occupied range and suitable habitat. 
It is important to note that 25 percent of a 1.5-km radius area being 
dominated by sagebrush cover (as classified by Southwest Regional Gap 
Analysis Project (SWReGAP) 30 x 30 meter pixels) is very different from 
an area having 25 percent canopy cover of sagebrush. At the landscape 
scale, there will still be areas (up to 75 percent) that are not 
dominated by sagebrush within the larger matrix of Gunnison sage-grouse 
occupied habitat. For example, there will be areas within this 
landscape that are dominated by pi[ntilde]on-juniper or mixed shrub 
communities that will still be occupied critical habitat, because at 
the landscape scale considered here, these areas are still part of the 
larger Gunnison sage-grouse habitat. In a critical habitat 
determination, the Service determines what scale is most meaningful to 
identifying specific areas that meet the definition of ``critical 
habitat'' under the Act. For example, for a wide-ranging, landscape 
species covering a large area of occupied and potential habitat across 
several States (such as the Gunnison sage-grouse), a relatively coarse-
scale analysis is appropriate and sufficient to designate critical 
habitat as defined by the Act, while for a narrow endemic species, with 
specialized habitat requirements and relatively few discrete 
occurrences, it might be appropriate to engage in a relatively fine-
scale analysis for the designation of critical habitat.
    (6) Comment: A peer reviewer noted that the answer to ``how much is 
enough'' in terms of the minimum size landscape needed to support a 
sage-grouse population remains uncertain. This peer reviewer felt that 
the Monticello population area proposed critical habitat should include 
only the Conservation Study Area (CSA), and that additional areas 
include some sites dominated by pi[ntilde]on-juniper and deep draws and 
canyons that may never provide suitable Gunnison sage-grouse habitat. 
Thus, the peer reviewer recommended refining the proposed critical 
habitat boundaries to include only the CSA and appropriate buffer areas 
as defined by Prather (2010).
    Our response: The Act directs us to designate critical habitat in 
areas outside the geographic area occupied by the species at the time 
it is listed (such as the CSA), upon a determination that such areas 
are essential for the conservation of the species. For the Gunnison 
sage-grouse, we evaluated the ability of unoccupied habitat to 
potentially provide for the landscape scale habitat needs of the 
species by identifying areas of large size with large areas dominated 
by sagebrush. A minimum of 500 birds may be necessary to support a 
viable population (Shaffer 1981, p. 133; GSRSC 2005, pp. 2 and 170). 
Approximately 100,000 ac (40,500 ha) likely would be needed to support 
500 birds (GSRSC 2005, p. 197). Currently occupied habitat is less than 
this amount for three of the six Gunnison sage-grouse populations 
included in this final designation--Pi[ntilde]on Mesa, Cerro Summit-
Cimarron-Sims Mesa, and Crawford. Two other populations--Monticello-
Dove Creek and San Miguel Basin--slightly exceeds this amount. This 
suggests that currently occupied habitat alone may not be sufficient to 
maintain long-term viability for at least three and possibly five of 
the six populations included in this final designation. Declining 
trends in the abundance of Gunnison sage-grouse outside of the Gunnison 
Basin further indicate that currently occupied habitat for the five 
satellite populations included in this final designation may be less 
than the minimum amount of habitat necessary for their long-term 
viability. Therefore, we consider the designation of unoccupied 
critical habitat, including areas outside the CSA in the Monticello 
population area, essential for conservation of the species.
    As we discuss in detail below, our delineation of unoccupied 
critical habitat areas was based on specific criteria, scientific data, 
and mapping methods on a landscape scale. These parameters were 
consistently applied across the range of Gunnison sage-grouse to ensure 
the integrity and reliability of the maps on a broad scale,

[[Page 69317]]

as opposed to applying varying sources and scales of data or 
information on habitat conditions. This topic is discussed further 
under Criteria and Methods Used to Identify and Map Critical Habitat in 
this final rule.
    In a critical habitat determination, the Service determines what 
scale is most meaningful to identifying specific areas that meet the 
definition of ``critical habitat'' under the Act. For example, for a 
wide-ranging, landscape species covering a large area of occupied and 
potential habitat across several States (such as the Gunnison sage-
grouse), a relatively coarse-scale analysis is appropriate and 
sufficient to designate critical habitat as defined by the Act. While 
for a narrow endemic species, with specialized habitat requirements and 
relatively few discrete occurrences, it might be appropriate to engage 
in a relatively fine-scale analysis for the designation of critical 
habitat.

Comments From States

    Comments received from the States regarding the proposal to 
designate critical habitat for the Gunnison sage-grouse are 
incorporated directly into this final rule or are addressed below.
    (1) Comment: Arizona Game and Fish Department stated that any 
designation of Gunnison sage-grouse critical habitat should occur 
within the current distribution for the species, in Colorado and Utah.
    Our Response: Critical habitat has been designated only in Colorado 
and Utah, within the current range of the species.
    (2) Comment: Colorado Parks and Wildlife (CPW) requested 
justification for our use of the Dolores County line as the southern 
boundary for critical habitat designation, and not including areas of 
habitat within Montezuma County.
    Our Response: Our identification of lands that contain the features 
essential to conservation of the Gunnison sage-grouse was based on a 
habitat mapping project by the Gunnison Sage-grouse Rangewide Steering 
Committee in 2005 (78 FR 2547, January 11, 2013). The Gunnison Sage-
grouse Rangewide Conservation Plan notes that the local conservation 
plan for Dove Creek was limited to Dolores County (GSRSC 2005, p. 70). 
The RCP potential habitat polygon that extended into Montezuma County 
was very large. The portion of the potential polygon that fell within 
Montezuma County had little suitable habitat (less than 20 percent of 
the almost 95,000 ac) and the suitable habitat was almost all more than 
18.5 km away from occupied habitat. The Dove Creek Conservation Plan 
(1998, p. 7) states that the species is not known to currently occur in 
Montezuma County. Further, vegetation data indicate that areas in 
Montezuma County are generally unsuitable for the species. For these 
reasons, we modified this very large potential polygon so it no longer 
included Montezuma County. Criteria for identifying and mapping 
critical habitat are described in further detail in this final rule 
(see Criteria and Methods Used to Identify and Map Critical Habitat).
    (3) Comment: CPW and one other commenter questioned the use of 18 
kilometers (km) (11 miles (mi)) as a distance for seasonal movement and 
for critical habitat designation. CPW stated that this distance is for 
extreme movements and results in large areas of non-habitat being 
included in the critical habitat designation.
    Our Response: Gunnison sage-grouse make relatively large movements 
on an annual basis (GSRSC 2005, p. J-3). The movement distances of 
Gunnison sage-grouse as a criterion for identifying unoccupied critical 
habitat areas are discussed in this final rule (see Proximity and 
Potential Connectivity (Criterion 3)). To account for proximity to and 
potential connectivity with occupied Gunnison sage-grouse habitat, we 
only considered unoccupied areas meeting our other criteria to be 
critical habitat if they occur within approximately 18.5 km (11.5 mi) 
of occupied habitat (using ``shortest distance''). This distance 
represents the rangewide maximum measured seasonal movement of Gunnison 
sage-grouse across all seasons, as presented in the RCP (GSRSC 2005, p. 
J-3). Therefore, outside of occupied habitat, we conclude that 
unoccupied areas within 18.5 km (11.5 mi) of occupied areas have the 
highest likelihood of Gunnison sage-grouse use and occupation.
    Other scientific information further supports our use of 18.5 km to 
account for habitat connectivity. Connelly et al. (2000a, p. 978) 
recommended protection of breeding habitats within 18 km of active leks 
in migratory sage-grouse populations. The maximum dispersal distance of 
greater sage-grouse in northwestern Colorado was greater than 20.0 km 
(12.4 mi) and, therefore, it was suggested that populations within this 
distance could maintain gene flow and connectivity (Thompson 2012, pp. 
285-286). It was hypothesized that isolated patches of suitable 
habitats within 18 km (11.2 mi) provide for connectivity between sage-
grouse populations; however, information on how sage-grouse actually 
move through landscapes is lacking (Knick and Hanser 2011, pp. 402, 
404).
    We recognize that Gunnison sage-grouse movement behavior and 
distances likely vary widely by population and area, potentially as a 
function of population dynamics, limited or degraded habitats, and 
similar factors. Movements have been documented as being much greater 
(up to 56 km (35 mi)) or less than 18.5 km in some cases (see our final 
rule to list Gunnison sage-grouse elsewhere in today's Federal Register 
for more discussion). However, the best available information indicates 
18.5 km is a reasonable estimate of the distance required between 
habitats and populations to ensure connectivity for Gunnison sage-
grouse, or facilitate future expansion of the species range--hence, we 
used this measure in our evaluation of areas as potential critical 
habitat. This topic is discussed further under Criteria and Methods 
Used to Identify and Map Critical Habitat in this final rule.
    (4) Comment: CPW recommended that the following areas of proposed 
critical habitat be reevaluated: Pine forests along the eastern 
boundary of Gunnison Basin, Sanborn Park north of Iron Springs, 
Bostwick Park and Poverty Mesa in the Cerro Summit-Cimarron-Sims Mesa 
Unit, Black Mesa between Crawford and Gunnison Basin (they requested 
that we exclude the north side and include the south side), southern 
Dove Creek, Hinsdale County, and the southeastern portion of Sims Mesa. 
CPW recommended that these areas be reevaluated for a variety of 
reasons, including updated mapping, severely degraded or converted 
habitats, and inappropriate habitats (such as forested areas).
    Our Response: We have modified our critical habitat designation to 
address several of CPWs concerns as follows: (1) We modified several 
occupied polygons to reflect the latest mapping from CPW (CPW 2013e, 
spatial data); (2) we used CPW's mapping for unoccupied habitat in the 
Sanborn Park/Iron Springs area; and (3) we removed the unoccupied 
habitat in the Bostwick Park area (part of the Cerro Summit-Cimarron-
Sims Mesa population) from our critical habitat designation because the 
habitat has been converted to a point where restoration to Gunnison 
age-grouse habitat would be highly unlikely and because it did not meet 
our suitability criterion (see Criteria and Methods Used to Identify 
and Map Critical Habitat below). Other areas have remained the same 
based on our sagebrush habitat suitability analysis as further 
described here.
    For occupied habitat, we based our identification of lands that 
contain the

[[Page 69318]]

PCEs for Gunnison sage-grouse on polygons delineated, defined, and 
updated by Colorado Parks and Wildlife (CPW) and the Utah Division of 
Wildlife Resources (UDWR) as part of the 2005 RCP Habitat Mapping 
project (GSRSC 2005, p. 54; CPW 2013e, spatial data). We consider all 
areas designated as occupied critical habitat here to meet the 
landscape specific PCE 1 and one or more of the seasonally specific 
PCEs (2-5). In general, for PCE 1, this includes areas with vegetation 
composed of sagebrush plant communities (at least 25 percent of the 
land is dominated by sagebrush within a 0.9-mi (1.5-km) radius of any 
given location) (see Habitat Suitability), of sufficient size and 
configuration to encompass all seasonal habitats for a given population 
of Gunnison sage-grouse, and facilitate movements within and among 
populations.
    We based our identification of unoccupied critical habitat for 
Gunnison sage-grouse on four criteria: (1) The overall distribution or 
range of the species; (2) potential occupancy of the species; (3) 
proximity and potential connectivity to occupied habitats; and (4) 
suitability of the habitat for the species. Our delineation of 
unoccupied critical habitat areas was based on these criteria, 
scientific data, and mapping methods on a landscape scale. These 
parameters were consistently applied across the range of Gunnison sage-
grouse to ensure the integrity and reliability of the maps on a broad 
scale, as opposed to applying varying sources and scales of data or 
information on habitat conditions.
    In this designation, as described in Criteria and Methods Used to 
identify and map Critical Habitat, we utilized the best available 
information to identify areas for critical habitat at a landscape level 
scale. At a smaller scale, there are local areas that do not meet these 
landscape criteria, and for occupied habitat, the PCEs. All occupied 
areas have the PCEs on a landscape scale, and unoccupied areas meet the 
landscape criteria at a landscape scale as well, therefore these areas 
are designated as critical habitat.
    Gunnison and greater sage-grouse occupancy, survival, and 
persistence are dependent on the availability of sufficient sagebrush 
habitat on a landscape scale (Patterson 1952, p. 9; Braun 1987, p. 1; 
Schroeder et al. 2004, p. 364; Knick and Connelly 2011, entire; 
Aldridge et al. 2012, entire; Wisdom et al. 2011, entire). Aldridge et 
al. (2008b, pp. 989-990) reported that at least 25 percent of the land 
needed to be dominated by sagebrush cover within a 30 km (18.6 mi) 
radius scale for long-term persistence of sage-grouse populations. 
Wisdom et al. (2011, pp. 465-467) indicated that at least 27 percent of 
the land needed to be dominated by sagebrush cover within an 18-km 
(11.2-mi) radius scale for a higher probability of sage-grouse 
population persistence. Although in our final listing rule, published 
elsewhere in today's Federal Register, we found that using a 1.5-km 
radius (window) analysis was not appropriate for evaluating the effects 
of residential development, for our habitat suitability analysis, we 
found that, at the 1.5-km radius scale (or window) (based on Aldridge 
et al. 2012, p. 400), areas where at least 25 percent of the land is 
dominated by sagebrush cover (based on Wisdom et al. 2011, pp. 465-467; 
and Aldridge et al. 2008, pp. 989-990) provided the best estimation of 
our current knowledge of Gunnison sage-grouse occupied range and 
suitable habitat. It is important to note that 25 percent of a 1.5-km 
radius area being dominated by sagebrush cover (as classified by 
SWReGAP 30 x 30 meter pixels) is very different from an area having 25 
percent canopy cover of sagebrush. At the landscape scale, there will 
still be areas (up to 75 percent) that are not dominated by sagebrush 
within the larger matrix of Gunnison sage-grouse occupied habitat. For 
example, there are areas within this landscape that are dominated by 
pi[ntilde]on-juniper or mixed shrub communities that are still occupied 
critical habitat, because at the landscape scale considered here, these 
areas are still part of the larger Gunnison sage-grouse habitat. In a 
critical habitat determination, the Service determines what scale is 
most meaningful to identifying specific areas that meet the definition 
of ``critical habitat'' under the Act. For example, for a wide-ranging, 
landscape species covering a large area of occupied and potential 
habitat across several States (such as the Gunnison sage-grouse), a 
relatively coarse-scale analysis is appropriate and sufficient to 
designate critical habitat as defined by the Act. While for a narrow 
endemic species, with specialized habitat requirements and relatively 
few discrete occurrences, it might be appropriate to engage in a 
relatively fine-scale analysis for the designation of critical habitat.
    Although in our final listing rule, published elsewhere in today's 
Federal Register, we found that using a 1.5-km radius (window) analysis 
was not appropriate for evaluating the effects of residential 
development, we found that, at the 1.5-km radius scale (or window) 
(based on Aldridge et al. 2012, p. 400), mapping areas where at least 
25 percent of the land is dominated by sagebrush cover (based on Wisdom 
et al. 2011, pp. 465-467; and Aldridge et al. 2008, pp. 989-990) 
provided the best estimation of our current knowledge of Gunnison sage-
grouse occupied range and suitable habitat. Specifically, we found that 
modeling at the finer 1.5-km scale was necessary to identify or 
``capture'' all areas of known occupied range, particularly in the 
smaller satellite populations where sagebrush habitat is generally 
limited in extent. Larger scales failed to capture areas that we know 
to contain occupied and suitable habitats (e.g., at the 54-km scale, 
only the Gunnison Basin area contained areas where 25 percent or more 
of the land is dominated by sagebrush cover) (USFWS 2013d, p. 3).
    The scale of the maps provided in the final rule to designate 
critical habitat does not allow for delineation of some developed areas 
such as buildings, paved areas, and other manmade structures within 
critical habitat that do not contain the required PCEs; nonetheless, 
lands covered by buildings, pavement and other manmade structures on 
the effective date of this rule are not included in critical habitat, 
and text has been included in the final regulation to make this point 
clear. This topic is discussed further under Criteria and Methods Used 
to Identify and Map Critical Habitat in this final rule.
    (5) Comment: The Colorado Department of Agriculture, the State of 
Utah Office of the Governor, and several other commenters expressed 
concern that critical habitat designation would impact the local 
economy, with income losses due to restrictions to agriculture, energy 
development, mineral extraction, or hunting.
    Our Response: We expect some economic impacts as a result of 
designating critical habitat for the Gunnison sage-grouse. The Final 
Economic Analysis (FEA) forecasted incremental impacts from the 
critical habitat designation alone (not including baseline impacts due 
to listing of the species) of $6.9 million (present value over 20 
years), assuming a seven percent discount rate. Assuming a social rate 
of time preference of three percent, incremental impacts were $8.8 
million (present value over 20 years). Annualized incremental impacts 
of the critical habitat designation were forecast to be $610,000 at a 
seven percent discount rate, or $580,000 at a three percent discount 
rate (Industrial Economics, Inc. 2014, p. ES-2). Estimated economic 
impacts for a 20-year period regarding livestock grazing, agriculture 
and water management, mineral and fossil fuel extraction,

[[Page 69319]]

residential development, renewable energy development, recreation, and 
transportation are described in the FEA (Industrial Economics, Inc. 
2014). Actions carried out, authorized by or funded by a Federal agency 
that might affect the species or its critical habitat would require 
section 7 consultations under the Act.
    (6) Comment: The State of Utah Office of the Governor asserted that 
voluntary cooperation of private landowners will be much more effective 
in improving habitat for Gunnison sage-grouse than protections afforded 
by listing and designation of critical habitat.
    Our Response: We agree that voluntary cooperation of private 
landowners will be key in improving habitat for Gunnison sage-grouse. 
However, under the Act, we must list a species that meets the 
definition of a threatened or endangered species, and we have 
determined that the Gunnison sage-grouse meets this definition. We 
believe that the best opportunity to conserve and ultimately recover 
the species will require both the protections afforded by listing and 
the critical habitat designation as well as voluntary conservation 
measures undertaken by private landowners, with support from the State 
in accomplishing these measures.
    (7) Comment: The State of Utah Office of the Governor asserted that 
the critical habitat designation for Utah is too broad and erroneously 
includes sagebrush (Artemisia spp.) areas that likely never supported 
Gunnison sage-grouse, but are based on habitat definitions from the 
Gunnison Sage-grouse Rangewide Conservation Plan. Similarly, a Federal 
agency asserted that approximately one-third of unoccupied habitat 
proposed for designation as critical habitat does not contain at least 
25 percent sagebrush cover and suggested that we clearly identify the 
criteria (such as soil type) that indicate sagebrush communities once 
occurred.
    Our Response: See our responses to comments 3 and 4 above, which 
explain the methodology we used to delineate critical habitat areas.
    (8) Comment: CPW commented that, within proposed unoccupied 
critical habitat, mapped ``vacant/unknown habitat'' should be 
considered more important than ``potentially suitable habitat'' because 
restoration would not be required in vacant/unknown habitat. 
Additionally, CPW recommended that old-growth pi[ntilde]on-juniper, 
exurban lands, and agricultural lands be removed from the category of 
potentially suitable habitat.
    Our Response: We consider both categories of unoccupied critical 
habitat (vacant/unknown and potentially suitable habitat, as defined by 
the RCP) to be essential to conservation of the Gunnison sage-grouse. 
However, habitat conditions and suitability across these areas vary, 
and we recognize that certain areas may require restoration to meet the 
needs of Gunnison sage-grouse. With respect to exurban lands, lands 
covered by buildings, pavement and other manmade structures on the 
effective date of this rule are not included in this critical habitat 
designation, either by mapping or by text in this final rule. With 
respect to unoccupied agricultural lands, these areas can be important 
for various seasonal uses by grouse and can, because of scale, meet the 
landscape level habitat suitability criteria. These topics are 
discussed further under the Criteria and Methods Used to Identify and 
Map Critical Habitat section in this final rule.

Comments From Federal Agencies

    Comments received from Federal agencies regarding the proposal to 
designate critical habitat for the Gunnison sage-grouse are 
incorporated directly into this final rule or are addressed below.
    (9) Comment: Two Federal agencies noted that the proposed rule to 
designate critical habitat included areas outside of currently occupied 
habitat that are deemed essential for the conservation of the Gunnison 
sage-grouse and questioned how a section 7 adverse modification 
analysis will be conducted in unoccupied critical habitat that does not 
contain the PCEs.
    Our Response: Our memorandum of December 9, 2004, provides our most 
current guidance on critical habitat and adverse modification (USFWS 
2004). This memorandum describes an analytical framework for adverse 
modification determinations addressing how critical habitat will be 
addressed in different sections of the Section 7(a)(2) consultation or 
Section 7(a)(4) conference. Unoccupied habitat does not need to have 
the PCEs, the standard is instead ``essential to the conservation of 
the species.'' Instead of considering the PCEs, in the section 7 
consultation addressing unoccupied habitat, we would expect a 
discussion of whether critical habitat, through the implementation of 
the proposed Federal action, would remain functional (or retain the 
current ability for the PCEs to be functionally established) to serve 
the intended conservation role for the species (USFWS 2004, p. 3).
    We also note that the Service has proposed to amend the definition 
of ``destruction or adverse modification of critical habitat'' to (1) 
more explicitly tie the definition to the stated purpose of the Act; 
and (2) more clearly contrast the definitions of ``destruction or 
adverse modification'' of critical habitat and ``jeopardize the 
continued existence of'' any listed species (79FR 27060).
    (10) Comment: A Federal agency recommended that critical habitat 
boundaries and edges should be made contiguous at the Utah and Colorado 
state line for the Pi[ntilde]on Mesa population and for the Monticello-
Dove Creek population.
    Our Response: We based our identification of occupied and 
unoccupied habitats for Gunnison sage-grouse on maps and polygons 
delineated and defined by the CPW and UDWR. Habitat maps were completed 
by the CPW and UDWR in support of the 2005 RCP (GSRSC 2005, pp. 54-102) 
and are updated periodically (CPW 2013e, spatial data). The habitat 
maps were derived from a combination of telemetry locations, sightings 
of sage-grouse or sage-grouse sign, local biological expertise, GIS 
analysis, and other data sources (GSRSC 2005, p. 54; CDOW 2009e, p. 1). 
These sources, as compiled in the RCP and updated, combined with recent 
lek count data, collectively constitute the best available information 
on the species' current distribution and occupancy in Colorado and 
Utah. In general, we considered areas classified as ``occupied 
habitat'' (GSRSC 2005, pp. 38, 54) to be currently occupied by Gunnison 
sage-grouse. All RCP mapped occupied habitat for Gunnison sage-grouse, 
except Poncha Pass (which does not meet PCE 1), is included in this 
critical habitat designation. Unoccupied habitat is included in this 
designation only when designated by the RCP (including both potential 
and vacant/unknown habitats), where potential connectivity to occupied 
habitat exists, and where vegetation cover provides suitable habitat, 
as described below. This topic is discussed further under the Criteria 
and Methods Used to Identify and Map Critical Habitat section in this 
final rule.
    According to the RCP information, in the Pi[ntilde]on Mesa 
population area in Utah, the center polygon is of vacant or unknown 
status; and the northern and southern polygons are potential habitat. 
As pointed out, the polygons do not match between Colorado and Utah. 
For instance, mapped occupied habitat in Colorado terminates at the 
State line, although adjacent habitat in Utah is shown as unoccupied. 
In that case, while Gunnison sage-grouse from the Pi[ntilde]on Mesa 
population are known to seasonally use adjacent habitat in Utah, the 
area was not classified as occupied

[[Page 69320]]

by the RCP (GSRSC 2005, p. 86). In the Monticello-Dove Creek 
population, part of the state line transition is due to a change to 
cropland on the Utah side of the border (GSRSC 2005, p. 38). The RCP 
has identified resolving these mapping issues as an objective, but this 
resolution has not been completed to date (GSRSC 2005, p. 221). A 
Federal agency recently suggested that all critical habitat near 
Monticello, Utah should be considered occupied. This change in 
designation has not been vetted through the RCP process, which we have 
determined provides the best available science regarding habitat 
occupied by the species. Critical habitat designations can also be 
revised by a future rulemaking, if appropriate. In the meantime, 
section 7 consultations can incorporate updated information in the 
analysis of designated critical habitats.
    (11) Comment: A Federal agency stated that the following 
information from statements in the proposed rule to designate critical 
habitat conflict and need clarification. The first statement was 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. The second statement was 
that critical habitat units are depicted for Grand and San Juan 
Counties, Utah, and Chaffee, Delta, Dolores, Gunnison, Hinsdale, Mesa, 
Montrose, Ouray, Saguache, and San Miguel Counties, Colorado (78 FR 
2542 and 2562, January 11, 2013).
    Our Response: The first statement acknowledges that with new 
information we may in the future identify other areas outside of 
designated critical habitat that are needed for recovery of the 
species. Consequently, conservation actions for the species can occur 
outside of critical habitat, section 7 consultations can occur outside 
of critical habitat if the species is present, and section 9 
prohibitions regarding take apply anywhere. The second statement 
proposes critical habitat, based on the best available information, in 
portions of the aforementioned counties (note, however, that lands in 
Chaffee County are no longer included in this final designation). This 
results in requirements for section 7 consultations within critical 
habitat, even if the habitat is not currently occupied by the species.
    (12) Comment: Several agencies requested that research be cited 
regarding the justification for the landscape specific PCE 1, and more 
specifically the generally corresponding habitat suitability analysis 
(areas with vegetation composed primarily of sagebrush plant 
communities [at least 25 percent of the area is dominated by sagebrush 
cover within a 1.5-km (0.9-mi) radius of any given location], of 
sufficient size and configuration to encompass all seasonal habitats 
for a given population of Gunnison sage-grouse, and facilitate 
movements within and among populations). The commenters noted that no 
on-the-ground assessment was completed to verify the choice of 1.5 km 
(0.9 mi) as a tool to delineate critical habitat.
    Our Response: See our response to comment 4 above. The Act does not 
require us to collect additional information or do assessments on the 
ground; instead it requires us to base our decisions on the best 
available information.
    (13) Comment: A Federal agency requested clarification regarding 
whether each PCE must be met for designation as critical habitat.
    Our Response: We consider all areas designated as occupied critical 
habitat here to meet the landscape specific PCE 1 and one or more of 
the seasonally specific PCEs (2-5). This topic is discussed under the 
Primary Constituent Elements for Gunnison Sage-grouse section of this 
final rule. However, see our response to comment 9 above for a 
discussion of unoccupied critical habitat and section 7 consultation. 
Unoccupied critical habitat does not need to contain the PCEs, but 
rather is designated because it is considered essential to the 
conservation of the species.
    (14) Comment: A Federal agency requested clarification regarding 
the ``non-sagebrush canopy cover component'' of PCEs 2-3, and asked 
whether this component includes trees or just non-sagebrush shrubs.
    Our Response: Habitat structural values for the seasonally specific 
PCEs 2 and 3 (breeding habitat and summer-fall habitat, respectively) 
are based on the RCP (GSRSC 2005, pp. H-6 and H-7). The non-sagebrush 
canopy cover component (5 to 15 percent) does not include tree canopy 
cover, but may include other shrub species such as horsebrush 
(Tetradymia spp.), rabbitbrush (Chrysothamnus spp.), bitterbrush 
(Purshia spp.), snakeweed (Gutierrezia sarothrae), greasewood 
(Sarcobatus spp.), winterfat (Eurotia lanata), Gambel's oak (Quercus 
gambelii), snowberry (Symphoricarpos oreophilus), serviceberry 
(Amelanchier spp.), and chokecherry (Prunus virginiana). We clarify 
this in the Seasonally Specific Primary Constituent Elements section of 
this final rule.
    (15) Comment: A Federal agency suggested that wording in the 
proposed rule to designate critical habitat (78 FR 2547, January 11, 
2013) be changed from implying that wildfire suppression would be a new 
management consideration to noting that it is an ongoing management 
action. The agency also requested that the North Rim Landscape Strategy 
be explicitly recognized as an ongoing conservation effort.
    Our Response: In this final rule, we provide a list of management 
considerations or protections (including wildfire suppression) that may 
be applied in the future within critical habitat, each of which has 
been implemented to some extent in the past. We clarify this in the 
Special Management Considerations section of this final rule. The North 
Rim Landscape Strategy is discussed in the final rule to list Gunnison 
sage-grouse as threatened, published elsewhere in today's Federal 
Register. To the extent the commenter is inquiring about whether 
certain activities might be ``actions'' under section 7 of the ESA, 
this determination is made on a case-by-case basis as an agency 
investigates whether a particular action is subject to consultation.
    (16) Comment: A Federal agency recommended that results from the 
ESRI ``Neighborhood Analysis'' tool be provided within the final rule 
to designate critical habitat.
    Our Response: The full results of our modeling and analysis, 
including the ESRI ``Neighborhood Analysis'', are not in a format that 
can be provided in the Federal Register. However, the data and methods 
used to perform our analyses are described in greater detail in this 
final rule (see Criteria and Methods Used to Identify and Map Critical 
Habitat); and background and supporting data are available by 
appointment, during normal business hours at the U.S. Fish and Wildlife 
Service, Western Colorado Field Office (see ADDRESSES).
    (17) Comment: A Federal agency stated that the proposed rule to 
designate critical habitat and the proposed rule to list present 
conflicting viewpoints regarding whether or not fire regimes are 
altered and whether or not altered fire regimes are a threat.
    Our Response: In the proposed and final critical habitat rules for 
Gunnison sage-grouse, we identified ``threats to the physical and 
biological features'' of critical habitat units, including altered fire 
regimes. These are stressors potentially affecting the conservation and 
management of critical habitat. This is in contrast to identified 
threats to the species' continued persistence, as evaluated in the 
final rule to list

[[Page 69321]]

Gunnison sage-grouse (published elsewhere in today's Federal Register). 
In this final rule, we clarify this point by identifying these 
stressors as ``factors potentially affecting the physical and 
biological features'' of given critical habitat units (see Unit 
Descriptions).
    (18) Comment: A Federal agency recommended adding areas to the 
critical habitat unit proposed for Pi[ntilde]on Mesa, provided GIS 
data, and noted that more information is available.
    Our Response: We have added and expanded occupied areas in the 
Pi[ntilde]on Mesa critical habitat unit based on updated mapping 
provided by CPW. CPW does recognize that the boundaries of Pi[ntilde]on 
Mesa need to be changed, but those changes were not completed prior to 
the publication of this rule. CPW modifies their unit boundaries in a 
group setting with input from numerous individuals and sources. Since a 
group (that would include the Federal agency) has not been convened by 
CPW to officially change the Pi[ntilde]on Mesa boundaries, we choose 
here to rely on the older information provided by CPW as the best 
currently available information.
    (19) Comment: A Federal agency noted that in the proposed rule to 
designate critical habitat, the text describes ``potential'' and 
``vacant or unknown'' habitat categories, whereas the maps refer to 
``occupied'' and ``unoccupied'' habitat.
    Our Response: We used RCP ``occupied habitat'' to define areas 
currently occupied by Gunnison sage-grouse (GSRSC 2005, pp. 38, 54) 
(see Criteria and Methods Used to Identify and Map Critical Habitat). 
We also use the RCP mapped ``potential'' and ``vacant or unknown'' 
habitat polygons (GSRSC 2005, pp. 54-102) to evaluate unoccupied areas 
as potential critical habitat for Gunnison sage-grouse. We combined and 
classified these two types as unoccupied habitat for consideration in 
our analysis and identification of critical habitat (see Potential 
Occupancy of the Species).
    (20) Comment: A Federal agency recommended deleting a portion of 
unoccupied habitat in the southern part of Gunnison Basin that is 
forested, and provided shapefiles.
    Our Response: We did look at the shapefiles provided. In general, 
we have relied on the most recent habitat mapping done by CPW (GSRSC 
2005, spatial data; CPW 2013e, spatial data) as the best available 
data. Some critical habitat unit boundaries have been refined based on 
the mapping by CPW. Our habitat suitability analysis looked at areas 
that generally correlated with PCE 1 where the dominant species is 
sagebrush 25 percent of the time within a 1.5 km radius. Given this, 
there could be up to 75 percent of the time where a different species, 
such as treed areas, is dominant. See our responses to comments 3 and 4 
above.
    (21) A Federal agency stated it does not support inclusion of 
isolated Federal lands polygons of unoccupied habitat within a matrix 
of private lands that are also unoccupied, unless the Service can 
demonstrate that those Federal land polygons--if restoration were 
applied and successful--are valuable in and of themselves for sage-
grouse habitat.
    Our Response: Unoccupied lands are designated here because they are 
``essential for the conservation of the species'' and these areas do 
not stop at land ownership boundaries. We recognize that in areas with 
a high proportion of private ownership and with more intensive land 
uses (such as agriculture), the conservation of these populations will 
be more difficult than in less developed areas. In these developed 
areas, the importance of Federal lands can be greater than less 
developed areas because there may be fewer conservation options 
available on private lands (especially those that are already 
developed). The conservation of the grouse in these more developed 
areas will be more likely with the cooperation of private landowners 
and there are numerous tools available to private landowners to work on 
conservation of the grouse. The comment to exclude Federal lands 
assumes that restoration is not possible on these private lands.
    Our landscape level approach used in this critical habitat 
designation generally does not consider land ownership. With the 
exception of exemptions for economic reasons or for Department of 
Defense lands and exclusions under section 4(b)(2) of the Act (where 
the benefits of such exclusions outweigh the benefits of inclusion), 
all lands that contain the PCEs (for occupied areas) or are essential 
to the conservation of the species (for unoccupied areas) are included 
in a critical habitat designation. On Federal lands where agencies are 
required to conserve endangered species (section 7(a)(1) of the Act) 
and consult on projects that may adversely affect species (section 
7(a)(2) of the Act), it is difficult to show how an exclusion outweighs 
inclusion. In contrast, on private lands where conservation is largely 
voluntary, rewarding landowners for their conservation efforts by 
excluding their lands in a critical habitat designation can outweigh 
the benefits of including those lands.
    (22) Comment: The U.S. Forest Service (USFS) recommended several 
additions and deletions to critical habitat on USFS lands at Crawford, 
Gunnison Basin, Pi[ntilde]on Mesa, and San Miguel Basin, with a net 
reduction of 12,781 ha (31,557 ac), and noted the following 
information:
     Most of the areas proposed for removal at Crawford are 
forested areas directly north of Blue Mesa Reservoir.
     Waunita Park in Gunnison Basin was considered unoccupied 
critical habitat in the proposed rule, but Gunnison sage-grouse have 
been observed in that area by USFS personnel for at least the past 20 
years.
     Forested areas in Gunnison Basin should be deleted.
     At Pi[ntilde]on Mesa, sagebrush areas in portions of the 
Dominguez Creek watershed and in portions of Calamity Basin should be 
added.
     Forested areas at San Miguel Basin should be removed from 
critical habitat designation.
    Our Response: Waunita Park was changed to occupied habitat, 
consistent with CPWs updates (CPW 2013e, spatial data). Although in our 
final listing rule, published elsewhere in today's Federal Register, we 
found that using a 1.5-km radius (window) analysis was not appropriate 
for evaluating the effects of residential development, for our habitat 
suitability analysis, we found that, at the 1.5-km radius scale (or 
window) (based on Aldridge et al. 2012, p. 400), areas where at least 
25 percent of the land is dominated by sagebrush cover (based on Wisdom 
et al. 2011, pp. 465-467; and Aldridge et al. 2008, pp. 989-990) 
provided the best estimation of our current knowledge of Gunnison sage-
grouse occupied range and suitable habitat. Given this, there could be 
up to 75 percent of the time where a different vegetation type is 
dominant, such as treed areas. CPW does recognize that changes are 
needed to the boundaries of Pi[ntilde]on Mesa, but those changes were 
not completed by CPW prior to the publication of this rule. CPW 
modifies their unit boundaries in a group setting with input from 
numerous individuals and sources. Since a group (that would include the 
USFS) has not been convened by CPW to change the Pi[ntilde]on Mesa 
boundaries, we choose here to rely on the older information provided by 
CPW as the best currently available information. See our responses to 
comments 3, 4, 18, and 20 above.
    (23) Comment: The USFS provided a list of grazing allotments 
containing critical habitat, dates of permit renewal for those 
allotments, and information on

[[Page 69322]]

whether or not they are covered by the Gunnison Basin Candidate 
Conservation Agreement (CCA).
    Our Response: We considered this information for the final critical 
habitat (and listing) rules.
    (24) Comment: The USFS asked if the proposed designation of 
critical habitat at the Dolores and Montezuma County line was intended 
to include any portion of Montezuma County; a close inspection of the 
map in the proposed rule indicates that a small portion of Montezuma 
County is included.
    Our Response: Montezuma County is not included in this critical 
habitat designation. Please see our response to comment 2 above; and 
the map for Critical Habitat Unit 1: Monticello-Dove Creek, at the end 
of this rule. Any observed overlap of this critical habitat unit with 
Montezuma County may be due to GIS application and/or projection 
errors.
    (25) Comment: We received several comments about our proposed 
critical habitat designation at Poncha Pass. One Federal agency 
recommended revising the delineation of critical habitat at Poncha Pass 
based on the Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) Level III 
Soil classification survey and vegetation potential and provided GIS 
files. A Federal agency also asserted that most of the unoccupied 
habitat and a small section of occupied habitat do not have the 
potential to support sagebrush due to alkaline soils and low 
precipitation, or do not have the potential to support brood-rearing 
habitat because of minimal water availability. The USFS recommended 
that any land in the Rio Grande National Forest on the east side of the 
Valley at Poncha Pass that is designated as critical habitat be 
considered unoccupied due to a lack of documented presence. The agency 
noted that small parcels of USFS land on the west side of the Valley 
within critical habitat contain sagebrush that might eventually be used 
by Gunnison sage-grouse. The USFS stated that proposed critical habitat 
extends too far up the slopes of the Sangre de Cristo Range into mixed-
conifer forests and offered to work with the Service in defining 
critical habitat on the east side of the Valley.
    Our Response: Although we previously proposed designating a 
critical habitat unit in Poncha Pass, information received since the 
publication of the proposed rule (CPW 2013e, p. 1; CPW 2014d, p. 2; CPW 
2014e, p. 2; CPW 2014f, p. 2) has caused us to reevaluate this proposal 
and to determine that it should not be included in this designation. 
See Reasons for Removing Poncha Pass as a Critical Habitat Unit below.

Comments From the Public

    Comments received from the general public including local 
governments, organizations, associations, and individuals regarding the 
proposal to designate critical habitat for the Gunnison sage-grouse are 
incorporated directly into this final rule or are addressed below.
    (26) Comment: Several commenters indicated that National 
Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) and economic analyses should be 
completed and made available for review prior to designating critical 
habitat.
    Our Response: Both a Draft Environmental Assessment, as required by 
NEPA, and a Draft Economic Analysis were completed and made available 
for public review on September 19, 2013 (78 FR 57604), prior to this 
final designation of critical habitat. Comments have been addressed for 
both the Environmental Assessment and Economic Analysis, and final 
versions of these documents have been completed and posted to the 
Service's Web site at http://www.fws.gov/mountain-prairie/species/birds/gunnisonsagegrouse/ and at http://www.regulations.gov.
    (27) Comment: Several commenters expressed differing opinions on 
whether private lands should be excluded from critical habitat 
designation.
    Our Response: Private lands are essential to the conservation of 
the species and, therefore, qualify as critical habitat. Federal 
agencies manage 55 percent of critical habitat designated in this rule. 
Approximately 43 percent of critical habitat is on private lands. 
Although there are public lands within the current range of the 
Gunnison sage-grouse, they are not sufficient to ensure conservation of 
the species for the reasons discussed in Rationale and Other 
Considerations below. The language of the Act does not restrict the 
designation of critical habitat to specific land ownerships such as 
Federal lands. Consequently, lands of all ownerships are considered if 
they meet the definition of critical habitat. Designation of private or 
other non-Federal lands as critical habitat has no regulatory impact on 
the use of that land unless there is Federal action that is subject to 
consultation. Identifying non-Federal lands that are essential to the 
conservation of a species alerts State and local government agencies 
and private landowners to the value of habitat on their lands, and may 
promote conservation partnerships. We have, however, excluded from our 
critical habitat designation 191,460 ac (77,481 ha) of private land 
where the CCAA, CEs, and a Tribal land management plan provide 
protection for Gunnison sage-grouse (see Exclusions below).
    (28) Comment: Several commenters stated that agricultural lands and 
other habitat without sagebrush should be excluded from critical 
habitat designation.
    Our Response: The best available information supports the 
consideration and inclusion of certain agricultural lands and other 
lands without sagebrush in this critical habitat designation. The PCEs 
for this species include those habitat components essential for meeting 
the biological needs of reproducing, rearing of young, foraging, 
sheltering, dispersing, and exchanging genetic material. Gunnison sage-
grouse are sagebrush obligates, requiring large, interconnected 
expanses of sagebrush plant communities that contain a healthy 
understory of native, herbaceous vegetation. The species may also use 
riparian habitat, agricultural lands, and grasslands that are in close 
proximity to sagebrush habitat. Primary constituent elements 2, 3, and 
5 include agricultural lands, and PCE 5 (alternative, mesic habitats) 
also includes wet meadows, and other habitats that may not contain 
sagebrush but which occur near sagebrush communities. This topic is 
discussed further under the Seasonally Specific Primary Constituent 
Elements section of this final rule.
    (29) Comment: Several commenters stated that critical habitat 
should not include unoccupied habitat.
    Our Response: The Service has found that areas outside the 
geographical area currently occupied by the species are essential for 
the conservation of the species. Data indicate that the currently 
occupied habitat area for four populations in this designation is 
insufficient for the conservation of the species, and may be minimally 
adequate for one other population (see our response to peer review 
comment 6). Declining trends in the abundance of Gunnison sage-grouse 
outside of the Gunnison Basin further indicate that currently occupied 
habitat for the five satellite populations included in this final 
designation may be less than the minimum amount of habitat necessary 
for the conservation of the species. Unoccupied habitat in the Gunnison 
Basin population is also needed for movement and migration of birds to 
outlying areas and satellite populations and for potential range 
expansion. Consequently, we do not believe that occupied habitat alone 
is sufficient to ensure conservation of the species. We

[[Page 69323]]

designated occupied and unoccupied habitat that is essential for 
conservation of Gunnison sage-grouse. This topic is discussed further 
under the Rationale and Other Considerations section in this final 
rule.
    (30) Comment: Several commenters stated that critical habitat 
should include all PCEs throughout the designated area.
    Our Response: We consider all areas designated as occupied critical 
habitat here to meet the landscape specific PCE 1 and one or more of 
the seasonally specific PCEs (2-5). See our responses to comments 9 and 
13. Each of the seasonally specific PCEs represents a unique seasonal 
habitat important for Gunnison sage-grouse survival and reproduction. 
Therefore, few areas would contain all seasonally specific PCEs. For 
instance, alternative, mesic habitats (PCE 5) may contain little to 
none of the sagebrush component generally required for the breeding, 
summer-fall, and winter habitats (PCEs 2-4).
    (31) Comment: Several commenters asserted that a specific county 
(i.e., Dolores, Hinsdale, Ouray, or Saguache Counties in Colorado, or 
San Juan County in Utah) should be excluded from critical habitat 
designation.
    Our Response: See our responses to comments 27 and 28. The five 
smaller populations included in this final designation outside of 
Gunnison Basin provide redundancy in the event of perturbations such as 
an outbreak of West Nile virus or the occurrence of drought, either of 
which could result in severe impacts to the Gunnison sage-grouse. The 
loss of one or more of the populations outside of Gunnison Basin could 
reduce the geographical distribution and total range of the Gunnison 
sage-grouse and increase the species' vulnerability to stochastic 
events and natural catastrophes, although the Poncha Pass population 
less so because it provides no unique genetic characteristics (since it 
is composed entirely of Gunnison Basin birds). These topics are 
discussed in detail in our final rule to list Gunnison sage-grouse as 
threatened, published elsewhere in today's Federal Register. The 
specific counties mentioned include portions of critical habitat 
designated for the Monticello-Dove Creek, San Miguel Basin, Cerro 
Summit-Cimarron-Sims Mesa, and Gunnison Basin populations and are 
essential for conservation of the species.
    (32) Comment: Several commenters recommended that lands with an 
existing conservation plan, CEs, Certificates of Inclusion (CIs), or 
other protections for Gunnison sage-grouse either should or should not 
be excluded from critical habitat designation.
    Our Response: Multiple partners including private citizens, 
nongovernmental organizations, a Tribe, and Tribal, State, and Federal 
agencies are engaged in conservation efforts across the range of 
Gunnison sage-grouse. Numerous conservation actions have been 
implemented for Gunnison sage-grouse, and these efforts have provided 
and will continue to provide conservation benefit to the species. In 
this final rule, as provided by section 4(b)(2) of the Act, we evaluate 
the benefits of including versus excluding lands covered under an 
existing conservation plan. Based on that evaluation, lands covered 
under the CCAA or CEs have been excluded from this final critical 
habitat designation. That evaluation also supported our decision to 
exclude the Ute Mountain Ute Tribe's Pinecrest Ranch in the Gunnison 
Basin area from the critical habitat designation, based on the Tribe's 
conservation plan for the ranch (see Exclusions). We are excluding 
191,460 ac (77,481 ha) of proposed critical habitat on these conserved 
areas from the final designation.
    (33) Comment: Several commenters presented differing opinions on 
whether or not energy and mineral exploration and production should be 
prohibited on critical habitat.
    Our Response: Critical habitat does not in and of itself prohibit 
or permit certain activities or development. Critical habitat 
designation will only affect projects that are subject to a Federal 
action. The Monticello-Dove Creek and San Miguel Basin populations 
support numerous mineral and fossil fuel extraction activities. 
Additionally, one wind project and one potash mine are under 
development in the Monticello-Dove Creek unit. There are no active 
uranium mines in proposed critical habitat. Oil and gas extraction 
occurs on both Federal and private lands within proposed critical 
habitat. Mineral and fossil fuel extraction activities on private lands 
without Federal mineral rights are less likely to have a Federal action 
that would require section 7 consultations under the Act.
    (34) Comment: Several commenters noted that critical habitat 
sometimes follows political boundaries rather than ecological 
boundaries.
    Our Response: In some cases, political boundaries may also be 
ecological boundaries due to differences in land management practices 
between counties or States. Also, in some cases non-ecological 
boundaries such as roads or county lines provide recognizable 
boundaries to help provide clarity to the public on where critical 
habitat begins and ends. In other cases, land cover types actually 
differ across political boundaries due to different land uses (e.g., 
the Monticello-Dove Creek population area along the Colorado-Utah State 
line).
    (35) Comment: One commenter stated that routes within critical 
habitat to recreational areas outside of critical habitat should not 
have access restricted.
    Our Response: Critical habitat does not in and of itself prohibit 
or restrict certain activities or development. Critical habitat 
designation will only affect actions that have a Federal action that 
are subject to consultation under section 7 of the ESA. Through section 
7 consultation with Federal land management agencies, conservation 
measures may be implemented to avoid or minimize impacts on critical 
habitat or the species.
    (36) Comment: Some commenters recommended that the proposed Poncha 
Pass critical habitat unit be excluded from critical habitat 
designation due to impacts to private property.
    Our Response: We are no longer including the Poncha Pass population 
area in our critical habitat designation as described above in our 
response to comment 25 and below in Reasons for Removing Poncha Pass as 
a Critical Habitat Unit. Private properties, while important to the 
conservation of the species, did not factor into the decision not to 
include this population in critical habitat.
    (37) Comment: One commenter noted that some critical habitat units 
are less than the 100,000-ac (40,500-ha) criteria needed to support 500 
birds.
    Our Response: Two units of the critical habitat designation are 
less than 100,000 ac (40,500 ha): Cerro Summit-Cimarron-Sims Mesa at 
52,544 ac (21,264 ha) and Crawford at 83,671 ac (33,860 ha). These two 
populations likely do not have enough contiguous habitat remaining to 
independently support 500 birds--the theoretical minimum number needed 
to maintain long-term viability, as previously described in our 
response to peer review comment 6. However, as populations grow and 
recover, we expect occupied habitat to expand and the distance between 
populations to decrease, thereby facilitating migration and interchange 
between populations. Furthermore, the Cerro Summit-Cimarron-Sims Mesa 
population likely serves, and should continue to serve in the future, 
as an important linkage area between the Crawford, Gunnison Basin, and 
San Miguel populations.

[[Page 69324]]

    (38) Comment: Several commenters stated that the listing and 
proposed critical habitat designation for the Gunnison sage-grouse will 
have economic impacts on energy and mineral development. Several 
commenters stated that oil and gas companies may cease operations if 
critical habitat is designated for the Gunnison sage-grouse. Some 
commenters asserted that they have been unable to lease their mineral 
rights as a result of the anticipated listing and designation of 
proposed critical habitat. Several commenters also noted that a large 
percentage of county revenues in Dolores and Montezuma Counties are 
from oil and gas.
    Our Response: Four of the critical habitat units included in this 
final designation currently have little or no energy or mineral 
development. Habitat in the San Miguel Basin and Monticello-Dove Creek 
populations has a high oil and gas development potential; habitat for 
the Crawford population has a medium oil and gas development potential. 
Approximately 54,000 ac (22,000 ha) of Bureau of Land Management (BLM) 
lands within proposed critical habitat are leased in Colorado, with 38 
percent currently in production; approximately 2,700 ac (1,100 ha) are 
leased in Utah, with none currently in production (Industrial 
Economics, Inc. 2014, p. 5-4). Most costs of critical habitat 
designation would be borne by Federal and State agencies, and would 
include species monitoring and section 7 consultation. Energy and 
mineral development and extraction on privately owned lands without 
Federal mineral rights are unlikely to have a Federal action that would 
require section 7 consultations. We estimate annual baseline costs 
(costs due to listing) associated with mineral and energy development 
on Federal lands of approximately $15,000 for Monticello-Dove Creek and 
$23,000 for San Miguel Basin Units (Industrial Economics, Inc. 2014 p. 
5-12). We estimate additional annual incremental costs on Federal lands 
due to proposed critical habitat designation of approximately $93,000 
for Monticello-Dove Creek and $7,600 for San Miguel Basin (Industrial 
Economics, Inc. 2014 p. 5-17). More detailed information is available 
in the Final Economic Analysis of Critical Habitat Designation for the 
Gunnison Sage-grouse (Industrial Economics, Inc. 2014).
    Montezuma County is not part of Gunnison sage-grouse occupied 
habitat or unoccupied critical habitat; therefore, oil and gas 
activities should not be impacted in that county. Oil and gas 
activities on privately owned lands without Federal mineral rights are 
unlikely to require section 7 consultation. The Colorado Oil and Gas 
Conservation Commission implements several environmental regulations on 
both Federal and private lands that provide protection to the Gunnison 
sage-grouse and occupied habitat. The BLM also requires conservation 
measures on leases it issues.
    (39) Comment: Several commenters stated that the listing and 
proposed critical habitat designation for the Gunnison sage-grouse will 
have economic impacts on farming and ranching.
    Our Response: Ranching activities occur throughout most of the 
species' range on Federal and private lands. Farming occurs on private 
lands. Activities on private lands that do not have a Federal action 
associated with the particular activity will not be subject to section 
7 consultations or be required to implement recommended conservation 
practices. However, more than 300 Federal grazing allotments cover 
nearly 1,000,000 ac (405,000 ha) within the proposed designation for 
critical habitat (Industrial Economics, Inc. 2013, p. 3-1), as well as 
numerous farms that have a Federal action associated with the activity 
due to participation in Federal programs (typically through NRCS or the 
Farm Service Agency). Impacts to ranching could include potential 
reductions in stocking rates, which would impact ranchers, and 
administrative costs due to section 7 consultations, which would impact 
BLM or USFS. Rangewide economic impacts to grazing activities due to 
listing the species are estimated at $110,000 annually, with an 
additional annual cost of $100,000 due to designation of proposed 
critical habitat (Industrial Economics, Inc. 2014, pp. 3-11-3-12). 
Economic impacts to other agricultural activities due to listing the 
species are estimated at $6,100 annually, with an additional annual 
cost of $2,000 due to designation of proposed critical habitat 
(Industrial Economics, Inc. 2014, p. 4-8). More detailed information is 
available in the Final Economic Analysis of Critical Habitat 
Designation for the Gunnison Sage-grouse (Industrial Economics, Inc. 
2014).
    (40) Comment: Several commenters stated that the listing and 
critical habitat designation for the Gunnison sage-grouse will impact 
the regional economy, reduce the tax base, or affect property values.
    Our Response: Activities on private lands that do not require 
Federal approval or action will not be subject to section 7 
consultations or restrictions related to this critical habitat 
designation. Impacts may occur on Federal lands or on other lands where 
landowners are participating in Federal programs. The Economic Analysis 
forecasts an annual economic impact from listing of $4.3 million and an 
additional annual impact of $610,000 from designation of proposed 
critical habitat (Industrial Economics, Inc. 2014, p. ES-2). These cost 
estimates are rangewide totals and address potential economic impacts 
to livestock grazing, agriculture and water management, mineral and 
fossil fuel extraction, renewable energy, residential and related 
development, recreation, and transportation activities. Most costs 
would be borne by Federal and State agencies, which include species 
monitoring and section 7 consultation. However, the majority of costs 
associated with residential development would be to developers or 
landowners for potential land set-asides to offset impacts to the 
species, and costs associated with livestock grazing would consist 
primarily of potential restrictions on grazing activities that would be 
borne largely by private ranchers. There may also be perceived negative 
impacts on jobs and the general economy due to concerns about 
additional regulatory requirements. More detailed information is 
available in the Final Economic Analysis of Critical Habitat 
Designation for the Gunnison Sage-grouse (Industrial Economics, Inc. 
2014).
    (41) Comment: Some commenters expressed concern that listing and 
proposed critical habitat designation for the Gunnison sage-grouse will 
have economic impacts on recreation, including activities such as 
hunting, wildlife watching, and tourism.
    Our Response: We anticipate that, due to listing the species and 
the proposed designation of critical habitat, there may be additional 
monitoring and management requirements and additional costs associated 
with section 7 consultations on public lands. These costs will largely 
be borne by the BLM, USFS, and the National Park Service (NPS). The 
Economic Analysis forecasts annual rangewide economic impacts to 
recreation from listing of $140,000 and an additional annual impact of 
$2,400 from designation of proposed critical habitat (Industrial 
Economics, Inc. 2014, pp. 8-10-8-11). More detailed information is 
available in the Economic Analysis of Critical Habitat Designation for 
the Gunnison Sage-grouse (Industrial Economics, Inc. 2014).
    (42) Comment: Some commenters suggested that critical habitat 
boundaries be moved to avoid

[[Page 69325]]

encompassing their personal property, thereby reducing economic impacts 
to those individuals.
    Our Response: See our response to comment 27. We did exclude 
certain private lands covered under the CCAA or with a CE. Our economic 
analysis did not identify any costs that are concentrated in any 
geographic area or sector likely to result from the designation, since 
activities on private lands that do not require Federal approval or 
action will not be subject to section 7 consultations or restrictions 
related to critical habitat designation (Industrial Economics, Inc. 
2014, Appendix A). Therefore, we did not exclude any area from 
designation as critical habitat based on economic reasons.
    (43) Comment: Some commenters stated that listing and proposed 
critical habitat designation for the Gunnison sage-grouse will impact 
the economics of water development.
    Our Response: Water projects may be affected by the designation of 
critical habitat if they involve a Federal action under section 7 of 
the Act (e.g., if a permit is required from the U.S. Army Corps of 
Engineers to dam or divert streams). The estimated costs associated 
with water development projects are included in the costs for 
agricultural activities other than ranching, as described in our 
response to comment 39.
    (44) Comment: Some commenters stated that listing and proposed 
critical habitat designation for the Gunnison sage-grouse will impact 
the economics of airport properties.
    Our Response: The scale of the maps used for publication in the 
Federal Register cannot delineate small areas within critical habitat 
that are developed. To address this, the final rule includes text 
specifying that lands covered by buildings, pavement or other manmade 
structures on the effective date of this rule, such as existing 
airports, are not included in critical habitat. As a result, Federal 
actions affecting such lands would not require section 7 consultation. 
We do not anticipate the critical habitat designation will result in an 
economic impact to airports.
    (45) Comment: Two commenters suggested that travel corridors 
linking critical habitat units should be protected or created. Other 
commenters recommended that travel corridors not be included as 
critical habitat because: (1) Connectivity is already addressed through 
translocation efforts, (2) travel corridors could facilitate disease 
transmission, and (3) travel corridors have not been proven to work.
    Our Response: We have not designated specific corridors linking 
critical habitat units in this final rule. As noted in our response to 
comment 3, Gunnison sage-grouse make relatively large movements on an 
annual basis. Movement distances up to 27.9 km (17.3 mi) within a given 
year have been reported, and winter migration distances as great as 
56.3 km (35 mi) have been documented. Gunnison sage-grouse commonly 
travel from lek sites to summer-use areas, from summer-use areas to 
fall/winter-use areas, and back to lek sites (Commons 1997, entire). 
This critical habitat designation will facilitate intrapopulation 
(within a single population) bird movement and the protection and 
availability of seasonal habitats necessary for the survival of 
Gunnison sage-grouse. With the designation of unoccupied habitat and 
the Cerro Summit-Cimarron-Sims Mesa Unit, we hope to facilitate some 
natural migration and interpopulation (between two or more populations) 
exchange of birds. However, further understanding and research of bird 
movements across the landscape is needed to better identify travel 
corridors and assess their utility. We recognize that natural migration 
and inter-population movement is the desired condition to restore self-
sustaining populations. The translocation of birds is a less 
sustainable (since it requires constant human intervention) and less 
desirable method for interpopulation movement.
    (46) Comment: Some commenters noted specific sites within proposed 
critical habitat that are forested and should, therefore, not be 
included in critical habitat designation.
    Our Response: Our habitat suitability analysis, which generally 
correlates with PCE 1, looked at sagebrush on a landscape, not a small 
scale. Although in our final listing rule, published elsewhere in 
today's Federal Register, we found that using a 1.5-km radius (window) 
analysis was not appropriate for evaluating the effects of residential 
development, for our habitat suitability analysis, we found that, at 
the 1.5-km radius scale (or window) (based on Aldridge et al. 2012, p. 
400), areas where at least 25 percent of the land is dominated by 
sagebrush cover (based on Wisdom et al. 2011, pp. 465-467; and Aldridge 
et al. 2008, pp. 989-990) provided the best estimation of our current 
knowledge of Gunnison sage-grouse occupied range and suitable habitat. 
Given this, there could be up to 75 percent of the area where a 
different species, such as a tree, is dominant. We evaluated the 
information provided by these commenters and other entities, but have 
retained the original critical habitat boundaries in these areas (with 
exclusions) based on our methodology, as described above in our 
responses to comments 3 and 4. We have refined the boundaries of a few 
units where better mapping data from CPW became available.
    (47) Comment: Some commenters expressed concern that potash mining 
in Gunnison sage-grouse habitat may cease operations if the species is 
listed or critical habitat designated. RM Potash expressed concerns 
that listing may delay their project (Thorson 2013).
    Our Response: Potash exploration is planned on BLM lands within 
Gunnison sage-grouse unoccupied critical habitat in San Miguel and 
Dolores Counties. As a result of the listing and designation of 
critical habitat, section 7 consultation will be required for such 
projects if they may affect Gunnison sage-grouse or designated critical 
habitat for the species. The amount of time necessary to complete a 
section 7 consultation will vary depending on the complexity of the 
project and the anticipated level of impacts. More detailed information 
on the economic impacts of the critical habitat designation on potash 
mining is available in the Final Economic Analysis of Critical Habitat 
Designation for the Gunnison Sage-grouse (Industrial Economics, Inc. 
2014).
    (48) Comment: Several commenters stated that the proposed rule to 
designate critical habitat relies too much on the use of linguistically 
uncertain or vague wording to support its conclusions.
    Our Response: Natural sciences, including wildlife biology, 
typically does not allow for absolute conclusions. Studies can seldom 
evaluate all members of a species or address all possible variables. 
Under the Act, we base our decision on the best and most current 
available scientific information, even if that information includes 
some uncertainty, but we have attempted to explicitly characterize that 
uncertainty where applicable.
    (49) Comment: Several commenters stated that voluntary conservation 
efforts by landowners such as CEs and CCAAs either should or should not 
be encouraged in lieu of critical habitat designation.
    Our Response: The Service strongly supports voluntary conservation 
efforts by landowners, and we have excluded some lands covered by 
specific conservation measures from the final critical habitat 
designation, as described in our response to comment 32 and Exclusions 
below.
    (50) Comment: Several commenters noted that without critical 
habitat

[[Page 69326]]

designation, a proposed 81-ha (200-ac) gravel pit on Sims Mesa in 
Montrose County will likely be developed.
    Our Response: We appreciate this new information and considered it 
in finalizing our critical habitat designation and our final rule to 
list Gunnison sage-grouse, published elsewhere in today's Federal 
Register. However, as stated above, critical habitat designation does 
not automatically preclude or otherwise restrict land uses or 
development. Consultation under section 7 is only required if there is 
a Federal action associated with a project that may affect a listed 
species or its critical habitat.
    (51) Comment: One commenter asked if road exclusions in critical 
habitat include power lines in road rights-of-way.
    Our Response: Lands covered by paved roads, buildings or other 
manmade structures on the effective date of this rule are not included 
in critical habitat designated under this rule. A right-of-way that is 
not paved would be considered critical habitat. Within designated 
critical habitat, the value or quality of the critical habitat will 
vary in terms of conserving Gunnison sage-grouse. This habitat value or 
quality will be considered and evaluated through our section 7(a)(2) 
consultation process.
    (52) Comment: Some commenters suggested that critical habitat 
designation should be deferred for one year to enable areas outside of 
Gunnison Basin to achieve positive results from conservation efforts 
that are currently underway.
    Our Response: We acknowledge past and ongoing conservation efforts 
by the affected State, local, and Federal agencies, and private 
landowners, which have improved the status of the Gunnison sage-grouse. 
We are required by the Act, however, to designate critical habitat at 
the time of listing to the extent prudent and determinable, and are 
required by court order to make this determination no later than 
November 12, 2014. We have determined that designation is prudent and 
critical habitat is determinable (see Background section).
    (53) Comment: One commenter requested explanation of the terms 
``protected habitat,'' ``approximate quantity,'' and ``spatial 
arrangement'' as used in describing the PCEs.
    Our Response: The term ``protected habitat'' is noted as a feature 
essential to conservation of the species and refers to the species' 
natural environment not subject to disturbance that could interfere 
with the species' life-history processes. The term ``approximate 
quantity'' is not used in the context of PCEs. However, the term 
``appropriate quantity'' was used in the proposed rule regarding the 
need for a sufficient number of physical or biological features to 
provide for a species' life-history processes essential to the 
conservation of the species. Similarly, the term ``spatial 
arrangement'' was used in the proposed rule regarding the need for an 
adequate geographical placement of physical or biological features 
within typical dispersal distances throughout a species' range to 
provide for life-history processes essential to the conservation of the 
species. We have simplified this language in this final rule.
    (54) Comment: One commenter noted that, within proposed critical 
habitat, soils differ between occupied and unoccupied habitat.
    Our Response: We recognize that there is variation in soil types, 
and other physical, biological, and chemical characteristics, across 
the species' range and throughout designated critical habitat. In the 
context of our analysis, soil type is most directly related to its 
capacity to support sagebrush communities upon which Gunnison sage-
grouse depend. To identify and map critical habitat for the species, we 
relied on land cover data from SWReGAP (USGS 2004, entire), including 
three prominent sagebrush land cover types in Gunnison sage-grouse 
range: Intermountain Basin big sagebrush shrubland, Intermountain Basin 
montane sagebrush steppe, and Colorado Plateau mixed low sagebrush. For 
the purposes and scope of our analysis, we determined broader land 
cover data (vegetation type) to be more appropriate than fine-scale or 
site-specific information such as soils data. This topic is discussed 
further under the Criteria and Methods Used to Identify and Map 
Critical Habitat section of this final rule.
    (55) Comment: One commenter recommended that all areas excluded 
from critical habitat be identified on maps, rather than just by text.
    Our Response: When determining critical habitat boundaries, we make 
every effort to avoid including developed areas, e.g., lands covered by 
buildings, pavement, and other manmade structures on the effective date 
of this rule, because such lands lack the physical and biological 
features essential for Gunnison sage-grouse conservation. However, the 
broad scale of critical habitat maps prepared for publication in the 
Federal Register typically cannot depict all such developed areas or 
small exclusions under section 4(b)(2) of the Act. As a result, the 
text of the rule specifies that lands covered by buildings, pavement 
and other manmade structures on the effective date of this rule are not 
included in critical habitat.
    (56) Comment: One commenter noted that the proposed rule to 
designate critical habitat stated that the City of Gunnison and 
Gunnison County only own 52 ac (21 ha) within the Gunnison Basin 
critical habitat unit. However, the City owns 744 ac (301 ha), and the 
County owns 1,849 ac (749 ha) within this unit.
    Our Response: This discrepancy may be attributed to differences in 
how acreages are calculated using GIS. Our GIS analysis, using version 
9 of COMaP (the most comprehensive and up-to-date ownership layer for 
the State of Colorado), showed that, in the Gunnison Basin critical 
habitat unit, the City of Gunnison owns 5 ac (2 ha) of occupied 
habitat. Combined, land owned by the City of Gunnison and Gunnison 
County constitutes less than one percent of the entire Gunnison Basin 
unit. When we use the Gunnison County ownership layer, we show that 
approximately 1,200 ac (486 ha) of City and County lands fall within 
the final critical habitat designation. The figures provided in the 
comment above, with a combined total of 2,593 ac, are not all included 
in the final critical habitat boundaries (in other words, many of the 
acres fall within the City of Gunnison boundary that is not part of 
this critical habitat designation), and this area still constitutes 
less than 0.1 percent of the entire Gunnison Basin unit. Therefore, we 
consider this a minor discrepancy. Also note that we expect land 
ownership in critical habitat to change over time, due to land 
conveyance and exchange; consequently, estimated acres by land owner or 
entity as provided in this final rule are not static.
    (57) Comment: We received a comment from the City of Gunnison that 
an area left out of the critical habitat designation in the Gunnison 
Basin did not follow the City of Gunnison's boundary.
    Our Response: We looked at the most up-to-date boundary for the 
City of Gunnison, which has changed significantly through the last 
several years, and found it contained areas of suitable habitat for 
Gunnison sage-grouse. Based on these comments, we modified the critical 
habitat area according to the City of Gunnison's boundaries where, 
based on satellite imagery and land cover data, these boundaries 
reflected the edge of moderate to high density development. We also 
adjusted the critical habitat boundary to leave out all of the runway

[[Page 69327]]

areas at the airport and the golf course south and west of town since 
these areas do not contain the PCEs for Gunnison sage-grouse. We 
retained lands within the city boundary that contain the PCEs for 
Gunnison sage-grouse.
    (58) Comment: One commenter stated that critical habitat 
designation is difficult, uncertain, inefficient, costly, and a low 
priority; therefore, it shouldn't be done. Another commenter asserted 
that critical habitat designation is not prudent or determinable.
    Our Response: Under the Act, the Service is required to designate 
critical habitat, to the maximum extent prudent and determinable, for 
any species determined to be an endangered or threatened species under 
the Act. We have determined that designation is prudent and critical 
habitat is determinable (see Background section); therefore, we must 
designate critical habitat for this species.
    (59) Comment: One commenter recommended that a Small Government 
Agency plan be required.
    Our Response: Our economic analysis forecasted incremental impacts 
on five county governments associated with transportation and 
administrative costs. However, incremental costs were estimated to be 
less than 0.7 percent of annual revenues for those entities (Industrial 
Economics, Inc. 2014, p. A-9). Therefore, we do not expect that this 
rule will significantly or uniquely affect small governments because it 
will not produce a Federal mandate of $100 million or greater in any 
year, that is, it is not a ``significant regulatory action'' under the 
Unfunded Mandates Reform Act. Consequently, we do not believe that the 
critical habitat designation would significantly or uniquely affect 
small government entities. As such, a Small Government Agency Plan is 
not required.
    (60) Comment: Some commenters noted that critical habitat 
designation may affect other wildlife species.
    Our Response: We believe the overall effects on other wildlife 
species will be positive, as described in sections 5.2.2 and 5.2.3 of 
our Environmental Assessment.
    (61) Comment: One commenter asserted that critical habitat mapping 
was a closed process that should have involved other land managers.
    Our Response: We have carefully considered input from Federal, 
State, and county land managers and have incorporated this information, 
as appropriate, in our identification and mapping of critical habitat, 
both in the proposed as well as the final rule.
    (62) Comment: One commenter noted that critical habitat polygons 
are delineated with straight lines; habitat boundaries are seldom 
straight lines; therefore, the critical habitat maps are not accurate.
    Our Response: See our responses to comments 10 and 24 above.
    (63) Comment: One commenter asked if landowners will be able to 
withdraw lands enrolled in the Conservation Reserve Program that are 
designated as critical habitat and resume farming.
    Our Response: Any landowner will have the option of managing their 
lands as they choose unless ``take'' (defined as to harass, harm, 
pursue, hunt, shoot, wound, kill, trap, capture, or collect, or to 
attempt to engage in any such conduct) of Gunnison sage-grouse will 
occur. The ESA provides various mechanisms for authorizing take, 
depending on the circumstances.
    (64) Comment: One commenter requested that the city of Gunnison, 
including wastewater treatment facilities and the Gunnison River 
channel from Highway 135 to Tomichi Riverway Park, be excluded from 
critical habitat designation.
    Our Response: When determining critical habitat boundaries within 
this final rule, we made every effort to avoid including developed 
areas, e.g. lands covered by buildings, pavement, and other manmade 
structures on the effective date of this rule, because such lands lack 
physical and biological features essential for Gunnison sage-grouse 
conservation. For example, we did not include moderately to highly 
developed lands around the City of Gunnison and Dove Creek within the 
mapped critical habitat boundaries. We have also not included lands 
around the Gunnison wastewater treatment facility and the Gunnison 
River channel extending through the Dos Rios Golf Club to Highway 135, 
because these areas fell within the moderately to highly developed 
lands.
    (65) Comment: Some commenters requested that hang gliding be 
allowed within critical habitat.
    Our Response: Critical habitat designation does not automatically 
preclude or otherwise restrict land uses, including recreation.
    (66) Comment: Two commenters suggested that a Flexibility Analysis 
Report should be completed due to the large number of small businesses 
that will be impacted.
    Our Response: The Regulatory Flexibility Act as amended by the 
Small Business Regulatory Enforcement Fairness Act requires a 
determination of whether the critical habitat designation will have a 
significant economic impact on a substantial number of small entities 
(i.e., small businesses, small organizations, and small governmental 
jurisdictions). In this final rule, we are certifying that the critical 
habitat designation for Gunnison sage-grouse will not have a 
significant economic impact on a substantial number of small entities. 
As described in more detail in Required Determinations below, we 
believe that, based on our interpretation of directly regulated 
entities under the RFA and relevant case law, this designation of 
critical habitat will only directly regulate Federal agencies which are 
not by definition small business entities. And as such, we certify in 
this final rule that this designation of critical habitat will not have 
a significant economic impact on a substantial number of small business 
entities. Therefore, an initial regulatory flexibility analysis is not 
required. However, though not necessarily required by the RFA, in our 
final economic analysis for this rule we considered and evaluated the 
potential effects to third parties that may be involved with 
consultations with Federal action agencies related to this action 
(Industrial Economics, Inc. 2014, Appendix A).
    (67) Comment: One commenter requested a definition of ``crucial 
seasonal habitat.''
    Our Response: This term is used in our description of the six 
critical habitat units, in reference to the need for special management 
actions to address threats from development to these habitats. Crucial 
seasonal habitat refers to areas important to the life history and 
survival of Gunnison sage-grouse including breeding, nesting, brood 
rearing, and wintering habitats, as defined by seasonally specific PCEs 
2 through 5 in this rule (see Seasonally Specific Primary Constituent 
Elements).
    (68) Comment: Several commenters requested that an environmental 
impact statement (EIS) be prepared for the critical habitat designation 
for Gunnison sage-grouse.
    Our Response: As described in the National Environmental Policy Act 
section of this rule, we found, based on our final environmental 
assessment, that no significant environmental impact would occur as a 
result of critical habitat designation for Gunnison sage-grouse. 
Therefore, an environmental impact statement is not necessary for the 
designation of critical habitat for Gunnison sage-grouse.

Critical Habitat

Background

    It is our intent to discuss below only those topics directly 
relevant to the designation of critical habitat for

[[Page 69328]]

Gunnison sage-grouse in this section of the final rule. For more 
information on Gunnison sage-grouse taxonomy, life history, habitat, 
population descriptions, and threats to the species, refer to the 12-
month finding published September 28, 2010 (75 FR 59804) and the final 
listing rule published elsewhere in today's Federal Register.
    Critical habitat is defined in section 3 of the Act as:
    (1) The specific areas within the geographical area occupied by the 
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 the 
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 to use 
and the use of all methods and procedures that are necessary to bring 
an endangered 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 requirement that Federal agencies ensure, in consultation 
with the Service, that any action they authorize, fund, or carry out is 
not likely to result in the destruction or adverse modification of 
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 
non-Federal landowners. Where a landowner seeks or 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) apply, but even in the event of a destruction or adverse 
modification finding, the obligation of the Federal action agency and 
the landowner is not to restore or recover the species, but to 
implement reasonable and prudent alternatives to avoid destruction or 
adverse modification of critical habitat.
    Under the first prong of the Act's definition of critical habitat, 
areas within the geographic area occupied by the species at the time it 
was listed are included in a critical habitat designation if they 
contain physical or biological features (1) which are essential to the 
conservation of the species and (2) which may require special 
management considerations or protection. For these areas, critical 
habitat designations identify, to the extent known using the best 
scientific and commercial data available, those physical or biological 
features that are essential to the conservation of the species (such as 
space, food, cover, and protected habitat). In identifying those 
physical and biological features within an area, we focus on the 
principal biological or physical constituent elements (primary 
constituent elements such as roost sites, nesting grounds, seasonal 
wetlands, water quality, tide, soil type) that are essential to the 
conservation of the species. Primary constituent elements are the 
elements of physical or biological features that provide for a species' 
life-history processes and are essential to the conservation of the 
species.
    Under the second prong of the Act's definition of critical habitat, 
we can designate critical habitat in areas outside the geographic area 
occupied by the species at the time it is listed, upon a determination 
that such areas are essential for the conservation of the species. For 
example, an area formerly occupied by the species but that was not 
occupied at the time of listing may be essential to the conservation of 
the species and may be included in the critical habitat designation. We 
designate critical habitat in areas outside the geographic area 
occupied by a species only when a designation limited to its current 
range would be inadequate to ensure the conservation of the species.
    Section 4 of the Act requires that we designate critical habitat on 
the basis of 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 are based on 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 we determine 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 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 dynamic, and species may move from one area to another 
over time. 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 designated area is unimportant or may not be needed 
for recovery of the species. Areas that are important to the 
conservation of the species, both inside and outside the critical 
habitat designation, will continue to be subject to: (1) Conservation 
actions implemented under section 7(a)(1) of the Act; (2) regulatory 
protections afforded by the requirement in section 7(a)(2) of the Act 
for Federal agencies to insure their actions are not likely to 
jeopardize the continued existence of any endangered or threatened 
species; and (3) the prohibitions of section 9 of the Act if actions 
occurring in these areas may result in take of the species. Federally 
funded or permitted projects affecting listed species outside their 
designated critical habitat areas may still result in jeopardy findings 
in some cases. These protections and conservation tools will continue 
to contribute to recovery of this species. 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 (HCPs), or other 
species conservation planning efforts if new information available at 
the time of

[[Page 69329]]

these planning efforts calls for a different outcome.
Prudency Determination
    Section 4(a)(3) of the Act, as amended, and implementing 
regulations (50 CFR 424.12), require that, to the maximum extent 
prudent and determinable, the Secretary designate critical habitat at 
the time the species is determined to be endangered or threatened. Our 
regulations (50 CFR 424.12(a)(1)) state that the designation of 
critical habitat is not prudent when one or both of the following 
situations exist: (1) The species is threatened by taking or other 
human activity, and identification of critical habitat can be expected 
to increase the degree of threat to the species, or (2) such 
designation of critical habitat would not be beneficial to the species.
    There is currently no imminent threat of take attributed to 
collection or vandalism for this species (see Factor B discussion in 
the final listing rule elsewhere in today's Federal Register), and 
identification and mapping of critical habitat is not expected to 
initiate any such threat. In the absence of finding that the 
designation of critical habitat would increase threats to a species, if 
there are any benefits to a critical habitat designation, then a 
prudent finding is warranted. Here, the potential benefits of 
designation include: (1) Triggering consultation under section 7 of the 
Act, in new areas for actions in which there may be a Federal nexus 
where consultation would not otherwise occur because, for example, the 
area is or has become unoccupied or the occupancy is in question; (2) 
focusing conservation activities on the most essential features and 
areas; (3) providing educational benefits to State or county 
governments or private entities; and (4) preventing people from causing 
inadvertent harm to the species. Therefore, because we have determined 
that the designation of critical habitat will not likely increase the 
degree of threat to the species and may provide some measure of 
benefit, we find that designation of critical habitat is prudent for 
the Gunnison sage-grouse.
Critical Habitat Determinability
    Having determined that designation is prudent, under section 
4(a)(3) of the Act we must find whether critical habitat for the 
species is determinable. Our regulations at 50 CFR 424.12(a)(2) state 
that critical habitat is not determinable when one or both of the 
following situations exist:
    (i) Information sufficient to perform required analyses of the 
impacts of the designation is lacking, or
    (ii) The biological needs of the species are not sufficiently well 
known to permit identification of an area as critical habitat. When 
critical habitat is not determinable, the Act allows the Service an 
additional year to publish a critical habitat designation (16 U.S.C. 
1533(b)(6)(C)(ii)).
    We reviewed the available information pertaining to the biological 
needs of the species and habitat characteristics where the species is 
located. This and other information represent the best scientific data 
available and led us to conclude that the designation of critical 
habitat is determinable for the Gunnison sage-grouse.

Physical and Biological Features

    In accordance with section 3(5)(A)(i) and 4(b)(1)(A) of the Act and 
regulations at 50 CFR 424.12, in determining which areas within the 
geographical area occupied by the species at the time of listing to 
designate as critical habitat, we consider the physical and biological 
features essential to the conservation of the species and which may 
require special management considerations or protection. 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, or rearing (or development) 
of offspring; and
    (5) Habitats that are protected from disturbance or are 
representative of the historical, geographical, and ecological 
distributions of a species.
    We derive the specific physical and biological features required 
for Gunnison sage-grouse from studies of this species' habitat, 
ecology, and life history as described in the proposed and final 
listing rules and in greater detail in the 12-month finding published 
September 28, 2010 (75 FR 59804), and in the information presented 
below. As in the cited rules and 12-month finding, the information 
below uses scientific information specific to the Gunnison sage-grouse 
where available but also applies scientific management principles and 
scientific information for greater sage-grouse, a closely related 
species with similar life histories and habitat requirements (Young 
1994, p. 44), that are relevant to our determinations--a practice 
followed by the wildlife and land management agencies that have 
responsibility for management of both species and their habitat. We use 
sage-grouse below in reference to both Gunnison and greater sage-grouse 
whenever the scientific data and information is relevant to both 
species.
    We have determined that the Gunnison sage-grouse requires the 
following physical and biological features:
Space for Individual and Population Growth and for Normal Behavior
    Gunnison sage-grouse require large, interconnected expanses of 
sagebrush plant communities that contain healthy understory composed 
primarily of native, herbaceous vegetation (Patterson 1952, p. 9; 
Rogers 1964, p. 19; Knick et al. 2003, p. 623; Connelly et al. 2004, p. 
4-15; Knick and Connelly 2011, entire; Pyke 2011, p. 532; Wisdom et al. 
2011, entire). Gunnison sage-grouse may use a variety of habitats 
throughout their life cycle, such as riparian meadows, riparian areas 
with a shrub component, agricultural lands, and steppe dominated by 
native grasses and forbs. However, Gunnison sage-grouse are considered 
sagebrush obligates (Patterson 1952, pp. 9, 42; Braun et al. 1976, p. 
168; Schroeder et al. 1999, pp. 4-5; Connelly et al. 2000a, pp. 970-
972; Connelly et al. 2004, p. 4-1), and the use of non-sagebrush 
habitats by sage-grouse is dependent on the presence of sagebrush 
habitats in close proximity (Connelly et al. 2004, p. 4-18 and 
references therein). In fact, the historical and current distribution 
of the Gunnison sage-grouse closely matches that of sagebrush 
(Patterson 1952, p. 9; Braun 1987, p. 1; Schroeder et al. 2004, p. 364, 
and references therein) (see the final listing rule published elsewhere 
in today's Federal Register).
    Gunnison sage-grouse move seasonally among various habitat types 
driven by breeding activities, nest and brood-rearing site 
requirements, seasonal changes in the availability of food resources, 
and response to weather conditions. In the 2005 Gunnison Sage-grouse 
Rangewide Conservation Plan (RCP) (GSRSC 2005, entire), annual Gunnison 
sage-grouse habitat use was categorized into three seasons: (1) 
Breeding (2) summer-late fall and (3) winter (GSRSC 2005, pp. 27-31). 
Sage-grouse exhibit strong site fidelity (loyalty to a particular area) 
to seasonal habitats, including breeding, nesting, brood-rearing, and 
wintering areas, even when a particular area may no longer be of value 
(Connelly et al. 2004, p. 3-1). Adult sage-grouse rarely switch inter-
annual use among these seasonal

[[Page 69330]]

habitats once they have been selected (Berry and Eng 1985, pp. 238-240; 
Fischer et al. 1993, p. 1039; Young 1994, pp. 42-43; Root 2002, p. 12; 
Holloran and Anderson 2005, p. 749), limiting the species' adaptability 
to habitat changes. Consequently, there may be lags in the response of 
Gunnison sage-grouse to development or habitat changes, similar to 
those observed in other sagebrush obligate birds (Wiens and Rotenberry 
1985, p. 666).
    The pattern and scale of Gunnison sage-grouse annual movements, and 
the degree to which a given habitat patch can fulfill the species' 
annual habitat needs, are dependent on the arrangement and quality of 
habitats across the landscape. Habitat structure and quality vary 
spatially over the landscape; therefore, some areas may provide habitat 
for a single season, while other areas may provide habitat for one or 
more seasons (GSRSC 2005, pp. 25-26). In addition, plant community 
dynamics and disturbance also influence habitat changes and variability 
over time. Rangewide, fine-scale habitat structure data on which to 
delineate seasonal habitats currently does not exist. A spatially 
explicit nest site selection model developed for the Gunnison Basin by 
Aldridge et al. (2012, entire) predicted the location of the best 
Gunnison sage-grouse nesting habitat. The total area of the predicted 
best nesting habitat (containing greater than 90 percent of an 
independent sample of nest locations) amounted to approximately 50 
percent of the study area. However, this model does not predict other 
life-history requirements of Gunnison sage-grouse such as seasonal 
habitat needs outside of the nesting season (Aldridge et al. 2012, p. 
403).
    Gunnison sage-grouse make relatively large movements on an annual 
basis due to the need for a diverse range of seasonal habitat types 
(Connelly et al. 2000a, pp. 968-969). Maximum Gunnison sage-grouse 
annual movements in relation to lek capture have been reported as 18.5 
km (11.5 mi) (GSRSC 2005, p. J-3), and 17.3 km (10.7 mi) (Saher 2011, 
pers. comm.), and individual Gunnison sage-grouse location points can 
be up to 27.9 km (17.3 mi) apart within a given year (Root 2002, pp. 
14-15). Individual Gunnison sage-grouse have been documented to move 
more than 56.3 km (35 mi) to wintering areas in the Gunnison Basin 
(Phillips 2011, pers. comm.; Phillips 2013, p. 4). In contrast, the 
maximum recorded movement distance of Gunnison sage-grouse in the 
Monticello population is 8.2 km (5.1 mi) (Ward 2007), demonstrating 
that movement distances of sage-grouse likely vary by population and 
area. While it is likely that some areas encompassed within these 
movement boundaries are used only briefly as movement areas, the extent 
of these movements demonstrate the large scale annual habitat 
requirements of the species.
    Therefore, based on the species' year-round reliance on sagebrush 
and the various seasonal habitat requirements discussed above, we 
identify sagebrush plant communities of sufficient size and 
configuration to encompass all seasonal habitats, including areas used 
to move between seasonal habitats, for a given population of Gunnison 
sage-grouse to be a physical or biological feature essential to the 
conservation of this species.
Food, Water, Air, Light, Minerals, or Other Nutritional or 
Physiological Requirements
    Food resources used by Gunnison sage-grouse vary throughout the 
year because of seasonal changes in food availability and specific 
dietary requirements of breeding hens and chicks. The diet of Gunnison 
sage-grouse is composed of nearly 100 percent sagebrush in the winter, 
while forbs, insects, and sagebrush are important dietary components 
during the remainder of the year (Wallestad et al. 1975, p. 21; Barnett 
and Crawford 1994, p. 117; Schroeder et al. 1999, p. 5; Young et al. 
2000, p. 452).
    Pre-laying hens are particularly dependent on forbs and the insects 
supported by native herbaceous understories (Drut et al. 1994, pp. 173-
175). The Gunnison sage-grouse hen pre-laying period is from 
approximately late-March to early April. Pre-laying habitats for sage-
grouse hens need to provide a diversity of vegetation including forbs 
that are rich in calcium, phosphorous, and protein to meet the 
nutritional needs of females during the egg development period (Barnett 
and Crawford 1994, p. 117; Connelly et al. 2000a, p. 970). During the 
pre-laying period, female sage-grouse select forbs that generally have 
higher amounts of calcium and crude protein than sagebrush (Barnett and 
Crawford 1994, p. 117).
    Forbs and insects are essential nutritional components for sage-
grouse chicks (Klebenow and Gray 1968, pp. 81-83; Peterson 1970, pp. 
149-151; Johnson and Boyce 1991, p. 90; Connelly et al. 2004, p. 3-3). 
During the first 3 weeks after hatching, insects are the primary food 
of chicks (Patterson 1952, p. 201; Klebenow and Gray 1968, p. 81; 
Peterson 1970, pp. 150-151; Johnson and Boyce 1990, pp. 90-91; Johnson 
and Boyce 1991, p. 92; Drut et al. 1994, p. 93; Pyle and Crawford 1996, 
p. 320; Fischer et al. 1996a, p. 194). Diets of 4- to 8-week-old 
greater sage-grouse chicks were found to have more plant material as 
the chicks matured (Peterson 1970, p. 151). Succulent forbs are 
predominant in the diet until chicks exceed 3 months of age, at which 
time sagebrush becomes a major dietary component (Klebenow 1969, pp. 
665-656; Connelly and Markham 1983, pp. 171-173; Fischer et al. 1996b, 
p. 871; Schroeder et al. 1999, p. 5).
    Decreased availability of forbs corresponded to a decrease in the 
number of chicks per hen and brood size (Barnett and Crawford 1994, p. 
117). Gunnison sage-grouse population dynamics appear to be linked 
closely to female reproductive success and chick survival (GSRSC 2005, 
p. G-13). In a recent demographic and population viability study of 
Gunnison sage-grouse, juvenile survival was found to be the most 
influential vital rate in the Gunnison Basin population. In northwest 
Colorado, dispersal, migration, and settlement patterns of juvenile 
greater sage-grouse--factors important to population persistence--were 
more influenced by limitations associated with local traditional 
breeding (lek) and brood-rearing areas than by landscape-level 
vegetation structure and composition (i.e., the spatial distribution 
and configuration of vegetation types) (Thompson 2012, pp. 317, 341). 
The same study recommended restoration, creation, and protection of 
early and late brood-rearing habitats to increase chick survival rates 
(Thompson 2012, p. 135). The importance of brood-rearing habitat for 
juvenile survival, recruitment, and hence, population viability of 
sage-grouse is clear. Habitats that support healthy sagebrush 
communities including herbaceous understories of native grasses and 
forbs provide such brood-rearing habitat essential to the persistence 
of Gunnison sage-grouse populations.
    Brood-rearing habitat for females with chicks must provide adequate 
cover adjacent to areas rich in forbs and insects to assure chick 
survival during this period (Connelly et al. 2000a, p. 971; Connelly et 
al. 2004, p. 4-11). In most areas within the range of Gunnison sage-
grouse, the herbaceous understory component of sagebrush plant 
communities typically dries out as summer progresses into fall. 
Habitats used by Gunnison sage-grouse in summer through late-fall are 
typically more mesic than surrounding habitats during this time of year 
(GSRSC 2005, p. 30). These areas are used primarily

[[Page 69331]]

for foraging because they provide reliable sources of vigorous, 
herbaceous vegetation and an abundance of forbs and insects when these 
resources are otherwise limited on the landscape. Such areas include 
riparian communities, springs, seeps, mesic meadows, or irrigated hay 
meadows and alfalfa fields (GSRSC 2005, p. 30; Schroeder et al. 1999, 
p. 4; Connelly et al. 2000a, p. 980). However, seasonal foraging 
habitats typically receive use by Gunnison sage-grouse only if they are 
within 50 m (165 ft.) of surrounding sagebrush plant communities 
(Colorado Sage Grouse Working Group (CSGWG) 1997, p. 13).
    In winter, greater and Gunnison sage-grouse diet is almost 
exclusively sagebrush (Rasmussen and Griner 1938, p. 855; Batterson and 
Morse 1948, p. 20; Patterson 1952, pp. 197-198; Wallestad et al. 1975, 
pp. 628-629; Young et al. 2000, p. 452). Various species of sagebrush 
can be consumed by sage-grouse (Remington and Braun 1985, pp. 1056-
1057; Welch et al. 1988, p. 276, 1991; Myers 1992, p. 55). Habitats 
used by Gunnison sage-grouse during winter typically consist of 15 to 
30 percent sagebrush canopy cover, similar to those used by greater 
sage-grouse (Connelly et al. 2000a, p. 972; Young et al. 2000, p. 451). 
However, Gunnison sage-grouse also seasonally use some deciduous shrub 
communities (e.g., Gambel oak and serviceberry) (Young et al. 2000, p. 
451). Sagebrush exposure and height must be sufficient to provide birds 
access to food during snowy conditions and severe winters (GSRSC 2005, 
pp. 30-31) (see Cover or Shelter).
    Based on the information above, we identify sagebrush plant 
communities that contain herbaceous vegetation consisting of a 
diversity and abundance of forbs, insects, and grasses, that fulfill 
all Gunnison sage-grouse seasonal dietary requirements, to be a 
physical or biological feature essential to the conservation of this 
species. We also identify as such features non-sagebrush habitats 
located adjacent to sagebrush plant communities that are used by 
Gunnison sage-grouse for foraging during seasonally dry periods, such 
as summer-late fall. These habitats are generally more mesic than 
surrounding habitat, and include wet meadows, riparian areas, and 
irrigated pastures.
Cover or Shelter
    Predation is the most commonly identified cause of direct mortality 
for sage-grouse during all life stages, and Gunnison sage-grouse 
require sagebrush and herbaceous vegetation year-round for escape and 
hiding cover (Schroeder et al. 1999, p. 9; Connelly et al. 2000b, p. 
228; GSGRC 2005, p. 138; Connelly et al. 2011b, p. 66). Major predators 
of adult sage-grouse include many species including golden eagles 
(Aquila chrysaetos), red foxes (Vulpes fulva), and bobcats (Felis 
rufus) (Hartzler 1974, pp. 532-536; Schroeder et al. 1999, pp. 10-11; 
Schroeder and Baydack 2001, p. 25; Rowland and Wisdom 2002, p. 14; 
Hagen 2011, p. 97). Most raptor predation of sage-grouse is on 
juveniles and older age classes (GSRSC 2005, p. 135). Juvenile sage-
grouse also are killed by common ravens (Corvus corax), badgers 
(Taxidea taxus), red foxes, coyotes (Canis latrans) and weasels 
(Mustela spp.) (Braun 1995, entire; Schroeder et al. 1999, p. 10). Nest 
predators include badgers, weasels, coyotes, common ravens, American 
crows (Corvus brachyrhyncos) and magpies (Pica spp.), elk (Cervus 
canadensis) (Holloran and Anderson 2003, p. 309), and domestic cows 
(Bovus spp.) (Coates et al. 2008, pp. 425-426). Ground squirrels 
(Spermophilus spp.) also have been identified as nest predators 
(Patterson 1952, p. 107; Schroeder et al. 1999, p. 10; Schroder and 
Baydack 2001, p. 25), but recent data show that they are physically 
incapable of puncturing eggs (Holloran and Anderson 2003, p. 309; 
Coates et al. 2008, p. 426; Hagen 2011, p. 97). Young (1994, p. 37) 
found the most common predators of Gunnison sage-grouse eggs were 
weasels, coyotes, and corvids.
    Nest predation appears to be related to the amount of herbaceous 
cover surrounding the nest (Gregg et al. 1994, p. 164; Braun 1995, pp. 
1-2; DeLong et al. 1995, p. 90; Braun 1998; Coggins 1998, p. 30; 
Connelly et al. 2000b, p. 975; Schroeder and Baydack 2001, p. 25; 
Coates and Delehanty 2008, p. 636). Females actively select nest sites 
with the presence of big sagebrush and grass and forb cover (Connelly 
et al. 2000a, p. 971), and nesting success of greater sage-grouse is 
positively correlated with these qualities (Schroeder and Baydack 2001, 
p. 25; Hagen et al. 2007, p. 46). Likewise, reduced herbaceous cover 
for young chicks can increase their rate of predation (Schroeder and 
Baydack 2001, p. 27), and high shrub canopy cover at nest sites was 
related to lower levels of predation by visual predators, such as the 
common raven (Coates 2007, p. 148). However, herbaceous cover may not 
be effective in deterring olfactory predators such as badgers (Coates 
2007, p. 149).
    Gunnison sage-grouse nearly exclusively use sagebrush plant 
communities during the winter season for thermal cover and to meet 
nutritional needs. Sagebrush stand selection in winter is influenced by 
snow depth (Patterson 1952, pp. 188-189; Connelly 1982 as cited in 
Connelly et al. 2000a, p. 980) and in some areas, topography (Beck 
1977, p. 22; Crawford et al. 2004, p. 5). Winter sagebrush use areas 
are associated with drainages, ridges, or southwest aspects with slopes 
less than 15 percent (Beck 1977, p. 22). Lower flat areas and shorter 
sagebrush along ridge tops provide roosting areas. In extreme winter 
conditions, greater sage-grouse will spend nights and portions of the 
day burrowed into ``snow burrows'' (Back et al. 1987, p. 488), and we 
expect Gunnison sage-grouse to exhibit the same behavior. Hupp and 
Braun (1989, p. 825) found that most Gunnison sage-grouse feeding 
activity in the winter occurred in drainages and on slopes with south 
or west aspects in the Gunnison Basin. During a severe winter in the 
Gunnison Basin in 1984, less than 10 percent of the sagebrush was 
exposed above the snow and available to sage-grouse (Hupp, 1987, pp. 
45-46). In these conditions, the tall and vigorous sagebrush typical in 
drainages was an especially important food source (GSRSC 2005, p. 31).
    Therefore, based on the information above, we identify sagebrush 
plant communities consisting of adequate shrub and herbaceous structure 
to provide year-round escape and hiding cover, as well as areas that 
provide concealment of nests and broods during the breeding season, and 
winter season thermal cover, to be a physical or biological feature 
essential to the conservation of this species. Quantitative information 
on cover can be found in the Primary Constituent Elements for Gunnison 
Sage-grouse section below.
Sites for Breeding, Reproduction, or Rearing (or Development) of 
Offspring
    Lek Sites--Lek sites can be located on areas of bare soil, wind-
swept ridges, exposed knolls, low sagebrush, meadows, and other 
relatively open sites with good visibility and low vegetation structure 
(Connelly et al. 1981, pp. 153-154; Gates 1985, pp. 219-221; Klott and 
Lindzey 1989, pp. 276-277; Connelly et al. 2004, pp. 3-7 and references 
therein). In addition, leks are usually located on flat to gently 
sloping areas of less than 15 percent grade (Patterson 1952, p. 83; 
Giezentanner and Clark 1974, p. 218; Wallestad 1975, p. 17; Autenrieth 
1981, p. 13). Leks are often surrounded by denser shrub-steppe cover, 
which is used for escape, and thermal and feeding cover. Leks can be 
formed opportunistically at any appropriate site within or adjacent to 
nesting habitat (Connelly et al. 2000a, p. 970). Lek habitat 
availability is not

[[Page 69332]]

considered to be a limiting factor for sage-grouse (Schroeder 1997, p. 
939). However, adult male sage-grouse demonstrate strong yearly 
fidelity to lek sites (Patterson 1952, p. 91; Dalke 1963 et al., pp. 
817-818; Lyon and Anderson 2003, p. 489), and some Gunnison sage-grouse 
leks have been used since the 1950s (Rogers 1964, pp. 35-40).
    Nesting Habitat--Gunnison sage-grouse typically select nest sites 
under sagebrush cover with some forb and grass cover (Young 1994, p. 
38), and successful nests were found in higher shrub density and 
greater forb and grass cover than unsuccessful nests (Young 1994, p. 
39). The understory of productive sage-grouse nesting areas contains 
native grasses and forbs, with horizontal and vertical structural 
diversity that provides an insect prey base, herbaceous forage for pre-
laying and nesting hens, and cover for the hen while she is incubating 
(Schroeder et al. 1999, p. 11; Connelly et al. 2000a, p. 971; Connelly 
et al. 2004, pp. 4-5--4-8). Shrub canopy and grass cover provide 
concealment for sage-grouse nests and young and are critical for 
reproductive success (Barnett and Crawford 1994, pp. 116-117; Gregg et 
al. 1994, pp. 164-165; DeLong et al. 1995, pp. 90-91; Connelly et al. 
2004, p. 4-4). Few herbaceous plants are growing in April when nesting 
begins, so residual herbaceous cover from the previous growing season 
is critical for nest concealment in most areas (Connelly et al. 2000a, 
p. 977).
    Nesting success for Gunnison sage-grouse is highest in areas where 
forb and grass covers are found beneath a sagebrush canopy cover of 15 
to 30 percent (Young et al. 2000, p. 451). These numbers are comparable 
to those reported for greater sage-grouse (Connelly et al. 2000a, p. 
971). Nest success for greater sage-grouse was greatest where grass 
cover is present (Connelly et al. 2000a, p. 971). Because of the 
similarities between these two species, we infer that increased nest 
success in Gunnison sage-grouse also depends on sufficient herbaceous 
understories beneath sagebrush cover. However, in a recent demographic 
study of Gunnison sage-grouse, nest site vegetation characteristics did 
not have a strong influence on nest success in the Gunnison Basin and 
San Miguel populations (Davis 2012, p. 10). Temporal factors appeared 
to have the greatest influence on nesting success, as earlier season 
nesting tended to be more successful than later season nesting; the 
longer incubation occurred, the greater the risk of nest failure (Davis 
2012, p. 1). Nevertheless, the best available scientific information 
overall indicates a link between habitat and vegetation characteristics 
and nest site selection and success in sage-grouse. Therefore, we 
maintain that vegetation characteristics are important physical and 
biological features of breeding and reproduction habitats for Gunnison 
sage-grouse.
    Female Gunnison sage-grouse exhibit strong fidelity to nesting 
locations (Young 1994, p. 42; Lyon 2000, p. 20, Connelly et al. 2004, 
pp. 4-5; Holloran and Anderson 2005, p. 747). The degree of fidelity to 
a specific nesting area appears to diminish if the female's first nest 
attempt in that area was unsuccessful (Young 1994, p. 42). However, 
movement to new nesting areas does not necessarily result in increased 
nesting success (Connelly et al. 2004, pp. 3-6; Holloran and Anderson 
2005, p. 748). As a consequence of their site fidelity to seasonal 
habitats, measurable population effects may lag behind negative changes 
in habitat, similar to other sagebrush obligate birds (Wiens and 
Rotenberry 1985, p. 666).
    Brood-Rearing Habitat--Early brood-rearing habitat is found close 
to nest sites (Connelly et al. 2000a, p. 971), although individual 
females with broods may move large distances (Connelly 1982, as cited 
in Connelly et al. 2000a, p. 971). Gunnison sage-grouse with broods 
used areas with lower slopes than nesting areas, high grass and forb 
cover, and relatively low sagebrush cover and density (Young 1994, pp. 
41-42). Broods frequently used the edges of hay meadows, but were often 
flushed from areas found in interfaces of wet meadows and habitats 
providing more cover, such as sagebrush or willow-alder (Salix-Alnus). 
By late summer and into the early fall, the birds move from riparian 
areas to mesic sagebrush plant communities that continue to provide 
green forbs. During this period, Gunnison sage-grouse can be observed 
in atypical habitat such as agricultural fields (Commons 1997, pp. 79-
81). However, broods in the Gunnison Basin typically do not use hay 
meadows further away than 50 m (165 ft) from the edge of adjacent 
sagebrush stands (CSGWG 1997, p. 13). In the Monticello area, broods 
have been documented using CRP lands (Lupis 2005, p. 28).
    Therefore, based on the information above, we identify sagebrush 
plant communities with the appropriate shrub and herbaceous vegetation 
structure to meet all the needs for all Gunnison sage-grouse 
reproductive activities (including lekking, nesting, and brood-rearing) 
to be a physical or biological feature essential to the conservation of 
this species.
Habitats Protected From Disturbance or Representative of the 
Historical, Geographical, and Ecological Distributions of the Species
    Based on historical records, museum specimens, and potential 
historical sagebrush habitat distribution, Gunnison sage-grouse 
potential historical range included parts of central and southwestern 
Colorado, northwestern New Mexico, northeastern Arizona, and 
southeastern Utah (Schroeder et al. 2004, pp. 370-371). The potential 
historical range of Gunnison sage-grouse was estimated to have been 
21,376 square miles, or 13,680,590 ac (GSRSC 2005, pp. 32-35, as 
adapted from Schroeder et al. 2004, entire). However, only a portion of 
this historical range would have been occupied at any one time.
    According to the RCP, the species' estimated current range is 1,822 
square miles, or 1,166,075 ac, in central and southwestern Colorado, 
and southeastern Utah (GSRSC 2005, pp. 32-35, as adapted from Schroeder 
et al. 2004, entire). Based on these figures, the species' current 
range would represent about 8.5 percent of its historical range (GSRSC 
2005, p. 32). Similarly, Schroeder et al. (2004, p. 371) estimated the 
species' current overall range to be 10 percent of potential 
presettlement habitat (prior to Euro-American settlement in the 1800s). 
As estimated here, the species' current potential range includes an 
estimated 1,621,008 acres (ac) (655,957 hectares (ha)) in southwestern 
Colorado and southeastern Utah (Index Map), comprising 923,314 ac 
(349,238 ha) (57 percent) of occupied habitat and 697,694 ac (306,719 
ha) (43 percent) of unoccupied habitat (Table 1). Based on these 
figures, the current potential range of 1,621,008 ac represents 
approximately 12 percent and occupied habitat represents approximately 
7 percent of the potential historical range of 13,680,640 ac.
    The estimates above indicate that approximately 88 to 93 percent of 
the historical range of Gunnison sage-grouse has been lost. We 
acknowledge that these estimates are uncertain and imprecise. We also 
recognize that only a portion of historical range would have been 
occupied at any one time, and that the distribution of sage-grouse 
habitat across the landscape is naturally disconnected due to the 
presence of unsuitable habitat such as forests, deserts, and canyons 
across the landscape (Rogers 1964, p. 19). Nevertheless, the best 
available information indicates a substantial reduction of Gunnison 
sage-grouse

[[Page 69333]]

distribution since Euro-American settlement in the 1800s, with evidence 
of the loss of peripheral populations (Schroeder et al. 2004, p. 371, 
and references therein) and a northward trend of extirpation (Schroeder 
et al. 2004, p. 369). This significant loss in habitat supports our 
determination that occupied habitat alone, or a subset of those lands 
(e.g., Federal land), are insufficient to ensure the species' 
persistence.
    The occupied sagebrush plant communities included in this 
designation contain the physical and biological features representative 
of the historical and geographical distribution of the Gunnison sage-
grouse. The unoccupied sagebrush plant communities included in this 
designation were all likely historically occupied (GSRSC 2005, pp. 32-
33; Schroeder et al. 2004, entire) and allow for the expansion of the 
current geographic distribution of the species and potentially 
facilitate movements among populations. As discussed further under 
Rationale and Other Considerations, the extremely limited extent of 
sagebrush habitat throughout the current range of the species, 
particularly in the satellite populations, is a factor in our decision 
to include areas beyond currently occupied habitat in this critical 
habitat designation.

Primary Constituent Elements for Gunnison Sage-Grouse

    Under the Act and its implementing regulations, we are required to 
identify the physical and biological features essential to the 
conservation of Gunnison sage-grouse in areas occupied at the time of 
listing, focusing on the features' primary constituent elements (PCEs). 
Primary constituent elements are those specific elements of physical 
and biological features that provide for a species' life-history 
processes and are essential to the conservation of the species.
    We consider all areas designated as occupied critical habitat here 
to meet the landscape specific PCE 1 and one or more of the seasonally 
specific PCEs (2-5).
    For the ``seasonally specific PCEs (2-5), we generally adopt the 
values from the 2005 RCP (GSRSC 2005, Appendix H, and references 
therein). The 2005 RCP provides structural habitat values developed 
using only Gunnison sage-grouse habitat use data from various Gunnison 
sage-grouse populations in all seasonal habitats (GSRSC 2005, p. H-2). 
Source data includes structural vegetation data collected in the 
breeding season (Young 1994, entire; Apa 2004, entire), summer-fall 
(Young 1994, entire; Woods and Braun 1995, entire; Commons 1997, 
entire; Apa 2004, entire), and winter (Hupp 1987, entire). In addition, 
these structural habitat values are specific to the Colorado Plateau 
floristic province and reflect the understory structure and composition 
specific to the range of Gunnison sage-grouse (GSRSC 2005, p. H-2). As 
such, these values are based on the most current and comprehensive, 
rangewide assessment of Gunnison sage-grouse habitat structure.
    We also note, however, that some lands, especially agricultural 
fields and CRP lands, meet one or more of the seasonally specific PCEs 
even without meeting the RCP's structural habitat guidelines. This is 
so because in some of these areas there is little sagebrush habitat 
available for the birds, oftentimes critical seasonal habitats have 
been converted to agricultural fields, and when sagebrush communities 
are drying out and forbs are waning on the landscape, resources can 
still be available in these agricultural areas. Still, these 
agricultural fields are less desirable for the species than intact 
sagebrush communities.
    As presented in the RCP (GSRSC 2005, pp. H6-H8), habitat structural 
values are known to vary between arid and mesic areas in sage-grouse 
habitat. Therefore, in the following descriptions and Tables 2 and 3, 
we provide the full range of these structural values to account for 
this variation. We have also included agricultural fields in the 
seasonally specific PCEs.
    Based on our current knowledge of the physical or biological 
features and habitat characteristics required to support the species' 
life-history requirements, we identify the following primary 
constituent elements specific to Gunnison sage-grouse. The basis for 
selected metrics of landscape specific and seasonally specific PCEs is 
discussed in detail below (see Criteria and Methodology Used to 
Identify Critical Habitat).
Landscape Specific Primary Constituent Element
    Primary Constituent Element 1-- Extensive sagebrush landscapes 
capable of supporting a population of Gunnison sage-grouse. In general, 
this includes areas with vegetation composed primarily of sagebrush 
plant communities (at least 25 percent of the land is dominated by 
sagebrush cover within a 0.9-mi (1.5-km) radius of any given location), 
of sufficient size and configuration to encompass all seasonal habitats 
for a given population of Gunnison sage-grouse, and facilitate 
movements within and among populations. These areas also occur wholly 
within the potential historical range of Gunnison sage-grouse (GSRSC 
2005, pp. 32-35, as adapted from Schroeder et al. 2004, entire).
Seasonally Specific Primary Constituent Elements
    Primary Constituent Element 2--Breeding habitat composed of 
sagebrush plant communities that, in general, have the structural 
characteristics within the ranges described in the following table. 
Habitat structure values are average values over a project area. 
Breeding habitat includes lek, nesting, and early brood-rearing 
habitats used typically March 15 through July 15 (GSRSC 2005, p. H-3). 
Early brood-rearing habitat may include agricultural fields.

Table 2--Breeding Habitat Structural Guidelines for Gunnison Sage-Grouse
                                   \a\
------------------------------------------------------------------------
          Vegetation variable                   Amount  in habitat
------------------------------------------------------------------------
Sagebrush Canopy Cover.................  10-25 percent.
Non-sagebrush Canopy Cover \b\.........  5-15 percent.
Total Shrub Canopy Cover...............  15-40 percent.
Sagebrush Height.......................  9.8-19.7 in (25-50 cm).
Grass Cover............................  10-40 percent.
Forb Cover.............................  5-40 percent.
Grass Height...........................  3.9-5.9 in (10-15 cm).
Forb Height............................  2.0-5.9 in (5-15 cm).
------------------------------------------------------------------------
\a\ Derived from GSRSC 2005, p. H-6, which depicts structural values for
  both arid and mesic areas in Gunnison sage-grouse habitat. Here we
  provide the full range of these structural values to account for this
  variation.
\b\ Includes shrubs such as horsebrush (Tetradymia spp.), rabbitbrush
  (Chrysothamnus spp.), bitterbrush (Purshia spp.), snakeweed
  (Gutierrezia sarothrae), greasewood (Sarcobatus spp.), winterfat
  (Eurotia lanata), Gambel's oak (Quercus gambelii), snowberry
  (Symphoricarpos oreophilus), serviceberry (Amelanchier spp.), and
  chokecherry (Prunus virginiana).

    Primary Constituent Element 3--Summer-late fall habitat composed of 
sagebrush plant communities that, in general, have the structural 
characteristics within the ranges described in the following table. 
Habitat structure values are average values over a project area. 
Summer-fall habitat includes sagebrush communities having the 
referenced habitat structure values, as well as agricultural fields and 
wet meadow or riparian habitat types. Wet meadows and riparian habitats 
are also included qualitatively under PCE 5 below.

[[Page 69334]]



  Table 3--Summer-Late Fall Habitat Structural Guidelines for Gunnison
                           Sage-Grouse \a\ \b\
------------------------------------------------------------------------
          Vegetation variable                   Amount  in habitat
------------------------------------------------------------------------
Sagebrush Canopy Cover.................  5-20 percent.
Non-sagebrush Canopy Cover\c\..........  5-15 percent.
Total Shrub Canopy Cover...............  10-35 percent.
Sagebrush Height.......................  9.8-19.7 in (25-50 cm).
Grass Cover............................  10-35 percent.
Forb Cover.............................  5-35 percent.
Grass Height...........................  3.9-5.9 in (10-15 cm).
Forb Height............................  1.2-3.9 in (3-10 cm).
------------------------------------------------------------------------
\a\ Structural habitat values provided in this table do not include wet
  meadow or riparian habitats. Therefore, we address these habitat types
  under Primary Constituent Element 5 below.
\b\ Derived from GSRSC 2005, p. H-7, which depicts structural values for
  both arid and mesic areas in Gunnison sage-grouse habitat. Here we
  provide the full range of these structural values to account for this
  variation.
\c\ Includes shrubs such as horsebrush (Tetradymia spp.), rabbitbrush
  (Chrysothamnus spp.), bitterbrush (Purshia spp.), snakeweed
  (Gutierrezia sarothrae), greasewood (Sarcobatus spp.), winterfat
  (Eurotia lanata), Gambel's oak (Quercus gambelii), snowberry
  (Symphoricarpos oreophilus), serviceberry (Amelanchier spp.), and
  chokecherry (Prunus virginiana).

    Primary Constituent Element 4--Winter habitat composed of sagebrush 
plant communities that, in general, have sagebrush canopy cover between 
30 to 40 percent and sagebrush height of 15.8 to 21.7 in (40 to 55 cm). 
These habitat structure values are average values over a project area. 
Winter habitat includes sagebrush areas within currently occupied 
habitat that are available (i.e., not covered by snow) to Gunnison 
sage-grouse during average winters (GSRSC 2005, p. H-3).
    Primary Constituent Element 5--Alternative, mesic habitats used 
primarily in the summer-late fall season, such as riparian communities, 
springs, seeps, and mesic meadows (GSRSC 2005, pp. 30, H-7; Schroeder 
et al. 1999, p. 4; Connelly et al. 2000a, p. 980).
Special Management Considerations or Protection
    When designating critical habitat, we assess whether the specific 
areas within the geographical area occupied by the species at the time 
of listing contain features that are essential to the conservation of 
the species and which may require special management considerations or 
protection. All areas being designated as critical habitat as described 
below may require some level of management to address the current and 
future threats to the physical and biological features essential to the 
conservation of Gunnison sage-grouse. In all of the described units, 
special management may be required to ensure that the habitat is able 
to provide for the biological needs of the species.
    A detailed discussion of the current and foreseeable threats to 
Gunnison sage-grouse can be found in the final listing rule, published 
elsewhere in today's Federal Register, in the section titled Summary of 
Factors Affecting the Species. In general, the features essential to 
the conservation of Gunnison sage-grouse may require special management 
considerations or protection to address or ameliorate the following 
significant threats and their interactions: The small population size 
and structure of most Gunnison sage-grouse populations; habitat 
decline, including habitat loss, degradation, and fragmentation of 
sagebrush habitats; drought and climate change; and disease. The 
special management considerations needed for each critical habitat unit 
that is being designated are described below.
    Special management considerations or protection may be required to 
address these threats in designated critical habitat. Based on our 
analysis of threats to Gunnison sage-grouse, continued or future 
management activities that could ameliorate these threats include, but 
are not limited to: Comprehensive land-use planning and implementation 
that prevents a net decrease in the extent and quality of Gunnison 
sage-grouse habitat through the prioritization and protection of 
habitats and monitoring; protection of lands by fee title acquisition 
or the establishment of permanent CEs; management of recreational use 
to minimize direct disturbance and habitat loss; activities to control 
invasive weed and invasive native plant species; management of domestic 
and wild ungulate use so that overall habitat meets or exceeds Gunnison 
sage-grouse structural habitat guidelines; monitoring of predator 
communities and management as appropriate; coordinated and monitored 
habitat restoration or improvement projects; and wildfire suppression, 
particularly in Wyoming big sagebrush communities. In some cases, 
continuing current land management practices may be appropriate and 
beneficial for Gunnison sage-grouse. For instance, continued irrigation 
and maintenance of hay and alfalfa fields on private lands near 
sagebrush habitats may help provide or enhance mesic, brood-rearing 
habitats for Gunnison sage-grouse. While this is a list of special 
management considerations or protections that are needed, the Service 
acknowledges the ongoing and pending conservation efforts of all 
entities across the range of the Gunnison sage-grouse, such as the Sage 
Grouse Initiative led by the Natural Resources Conservation Service and 
its many partners. Conservation efforts by those entities on private 
lands are described in detail under Factor A in our final listing rule 
for Gunnison sage-grouse elsewhere in today's Federal Register.
    Additionally, management of critical habitat lands can increase the 
amount of suitable habitat and enhance connectivity among Gunnison 
sage-grouse populations through the restoration of areas that were once 
dominated by sagebrush plant communities. The limited extent of 
sagebrush habitats throughout the species' current range emphasizes the 
need for additional habitat for the species to be able to expand into, 
allowing for species' conservation. Furthermore, additional sagebrush 
habitat will also allow the grouse to adjust to changes in habitat 
availability that may result from climate change.

Criteria and Methods Used To Identify and Map Critical Habitat

    As required by section 4(b)(2) of the Act, we use the best 
scientific data available to designate critical habitat. In accordance 
with the Act and our implementing regulations at 50 CFR 424.12(b), we 
review available information pertaining to the habitat requirements of 
the species and identify occupied areas at the time of listing that 
contain the features essential to the conservation of the species. If, 
after identifying currently occupied areas, we determine that those 
areas are inadequate to ensure conservation of the species, in 
accordance with the Act and our implementing regulations at 50 CFR 
424.12(e), we then consider whether designating additional areas--
outside those currently occupied--are essential to the conservation of 
the species. Based on this analysis, we are designating critical 
habitat in areas within the geographical area occupied by the species 
at the time of listing (currently occupied). We also are designating 
specific areas outside the geographical area currently occupied by the 
species, including areas that were historically occupied but are 
presently unoccupied, because we find that such areas are essential for 
the conservation of the species (see Rationale and Other 
Considerations). In an attempt to better explain our criteria in 
response to public comments, we are providing a new format for our 
criteria. Therefore, this section looks different from our proposed 
critical habitat rule. Although

[[Page 69335]]

the explanation presented here is different in format, our criteria and 
the designation resulting from these criteria is the same. We have also 
expanded our description of the criteria to add additional clarity.
    For occupied habitat, we based our identification of lands that 
contain the PCEs for Gunnison sage-grouse on polygons delineated and 
defined by Colorado Parks and Wildlife (CPW) and the Utah Division of 
Wildlife Resources (UDWR) as part of the 2005 RCP Habitat Mapping 
project (GSRSC 2005, p. 54), and as updated by subsequent CPW mapping 
(CPW 2013e, spatial data). Gunnison sage-grouse polygons mapped in the 
2005 RCP were derived from a combination of telemetry locations, 
sightings of sage-grouse or sage-grouse sign, local biological 
expertise, GIS analysis, or other data sources (GSRSC 2005, p. 54; CDOW 
2009e, p. 1). We consider polygons designated as ``occupied habitat'' 
(GSRSC 2005, p. 54; CPW 2013e, spatial data) to be the area occupied by 
Gunnison sage-grouse at the time of the listing. These occupied 
polygons, lek locations, and the habitat guidelines laid out in the 
RCP, allowed us to determine where the PCEs for Gunnison sage-grouse 
existed (see Primary Constituent Elements for Gunnison Sage-grouse). 
Unfortunately, maps of where seasonally specific PCEs exist on the 
landscape are not available. Therefore, we additionally looked at the 
Gunnison Basin habitat prioritization tool (BLM 2013b, Appendix F), and 
0.6 and 4 mile buffers around lek locations (as described in the RCPs 
disturbance guidelines (GSRSC 2005, Appendix I) in our evaluation to 
better consider the seasonally specific PCEs. Further, we utilized this 
occupied habitat to develop our habitat suitability analysis (used for 
unoccupied habitat below in criterion 4) and generally, this habitat 
suitability criterion analysis correlates with PCE 1.
    We based our model and identification of unoccupied critical 
habitat for Gunnison sage-grouse on four criteria: (1) The distribution 
and range of the species; (2) potential occupancy of the species; (3) 
proximity and potential connectivity between occupied habitats; and (4) 
suitability of the habitat for the species.

Distribution and Range of the Species (Criterion 1)

    We first limited our consideration and analysis of unoccupied 
critical habitat to the species' potential historical range (GSRSC 
2005, pp. 32-35, as adapted from Schroeder et al. 2004, entire) 
(potential historical range is described in detail in our final rule to 
list Gunnison sage-grouse elsewhere in today's Federal Register). In 
other words, the entirety of designated unoccupied critical habitat 
(and occupied critical habitat) in this final rule occurs within the 
boundaries of the species' historical range. However, we further 
narrowed our consideration of unoccupied critical habitat within the 
historical range by evaluating potential occupancy of the species, 
habitat connectivity, and habitat suitability.

Potential Occupancy of the Species (Criterion 2)

    We based our identification of unoccupied habitats for Gunnison 
sage-grouse on maps and polygons of ``potential'' and ``vacant/
unknown'' habitat delineated and defined by the CPW and UDWR. Habitat 
maps were completed in support of the 2005 RCP (GSRSC 2005, pp. 54-
102). The 2005 RCP defined two unoccupied habitat categories, 
``potential habitat,'' and ``vacant or unknown habitat'' (GSRSC 2005, 
p. 54). The RCP defined potential habitat as ``unoccupied habitats that 
could be suitable for occupation of sage-grouse if practical 
restoration were applied,'' and is most commonly former sagebrush areas 
overtaken by pi[ntilde]on-juniper woodlands. The RCP defines vacant or 
unknown habitat category as ``suitable habitat for sage-grouse that is 
separated (not contiguous) from occupied habitats that either has not 
been adequately inventoried, or has not had documentation of sage-
grouse presence in the past 10 years.''
    We used the ``potential'' and ``vacant or unknown'' habitat 
polygons (GSRSC 2005, pp. 54-102) to evaluate unoccupied areas as 
potential critical habitat for Gunnison sage-grouse. Due to limited 
information available for these areas, we assumed that both types are 
equal in value and importance to the species (i.e., one was not ranked 
or weighted as being more important than the other). We then combined 
and classified these two types as unoccupied habitat for consideration 
in our analysis and in this critical habitat designation. As described 
in more detail below, we further evaluated these areas as potential 
critical habitat based on their adjacency or proximity to currently 
occupied habitat (potential connectivity between and within 
populations, criterion 3); and suitability, defined by large areas with 
dominated by sufficient sagebrush cover at the landscape scale 
(criterion 4).
    Unoccupied habitat in this critical habitat designation differs 
from the RCP mapped unoccupied habitats (GSRSC 2005, pp. 54-102), in 
some instances adding or omitting certain areas of unoccupied habitat, 
based on our adopted criteria and methodology. Some RCP-identified 
areas were not included in the designation due to distance of the 
locations from occupied range (i.e., failed criterion 3), where 
movement of sage-grouse is either not known or anticipated (e.g., 
peripheral unoccupied habitat north and northeast of the Crawford 
population of Gunnison sage-grouse). There were areas where only a part 
of the potential or vacant/unknown habitat met our suitability 
criterion (4). In these cases, the entire polygon was still included in 
the designation, with one exception. One RCP potential polygon was very 
large and extended into Montezuma County. The portion of the polygon 
that fell within Montezuma County had little suitability (less than 20 
percent of the almost 95,000 ac) and the suitable habitat was almost 
all more than 18.5 km away from occupied habitat. For these reasons, we 
modified this very large polygon so it no longer included Montezuma 
County.

Proximity and Potential Connectivity (Criterion 3)

    To account for proximity to and potential connectivity with 
occupied Gunnison sage-grouse habitat, we only considered unoccupied 
areas as critical habitat if they occur within approximately 18.5 km 
(11.5 mi) of occupied habitat (using ``shortest distance'') as 
presented in the RCP (GSRSC 2005, pp. J-3). Therefore, outside of 
occupied habitat, we conclude these areas have the highest likelihood 
of Gunnison sage-grouse use and occupation. Other studies have 
suggested similar maximum seasonal (not dispersal) movement distances, 
supporting our use of 18.5 km for connectivity. For example, Connelly 
et al. (2000a, p. 978) recommended protection of breeding habitats 
within 18 km of active leks in migratory sage-grouse populations.
    The maximum dispersal distance of greater sage-grouse in northwest 
Colorado is about 20.0 km (12.4 mi) and, therefore, it was suggested 
that populations within this distance could maintain gene flow and 
connectivity (Thompson 2012, pp. 285-286). It was hypothesized that 
isolated patches of suitable habitats within 18 km (11.2 mi) provide 
for connectivity between sage-grouse populations; however, information 
on how sage-grouse actually disperse and move through landscapes is 
lacking (Knick and Hanser 2011, pp. 402, 404). Gunnison sage-grouse 
birds have been measured moving up to 35 mi (56 km), but these 
dispersal events appear to be less frequent.
    We recognize that Gunnison sage-grouse movement behavior and

[[Page 69336]]

distances likely vary widely by population and area, potentially as a 
function of population dynamics, limited or degraded habitats, and 
similar factors; and that movements have been documented as being much 
greater or less than 18.5 km in some cases (see our final rule to list 
Gunnison sage-grouse elsewhere in today's Federal Register for more 
discussion). However, the best available information indicates 18.5 km 
is a reasonable estimate of the maximum distance required between 
habitats and populations to ensure connectivity for Gunnison sage-
grouse, or facilitate future expansion of the species range--hence, our 
selection of this metric in our evaluation of areas as potential 
critical habitat.

Habitat Suitability (Criterion 4)

    Gunnison and greater sage-grouse occupancy, survival, and 
persistence are dependent on the availability of sufficient sagebrush 
habitat on a landscape scale (Patterson 1952, p. 9; Braun 1987, p. 1; 
Schroeder et al. 2004, p. 364; Knick and Connelly 2011, entire; 
Aldridge et al. 2012, entire; Wisdom et al. 2011, entire). Aldridge et 
al. (2008b, pp. 989-990) reported that at least 25 percent of the 
landscape needed to be dominated by sagebrush cover within a 30-km 
(18.6-mi) radius for long-term persistence of sage-grouse populations. 
Wisdom et al. (2011, pp. 465-467) indicated that areas where at least 
27 percent of the landscape was dominated by sagebrush cover within an 
18-km (11.2-mi) radius scale age-grouse populations had a higher 
probability of persistence. Combined these studies indicate that 
approximately 25 percent of the landscape needs to be dominated by 
sagebrush cover to ensure sage-grouse persistence. On a finer scale, 
spatial modeling by Aldridge et al. (2012, p. 400) indicated that 
Gunnison sage-grouse in the Gunnison Basin selected for nesting areas 
with adequate sagebrush cover (5 percent or more was dominated by 
sagebrush cover) at landscape scales (defined as 1.5-km radius areas).
    As discussed above, we have a basic understanding of the species' 
needs for connectivity of habitat and populations (18.5 km or less 
separation between occupied habitats or populations) (see Proximity and 
Potential Connectivity (Criterion 3)). The scientific literature also 
indicates that habitat suitability is dependent on large landscapes 
(18- to 30-km radius area) where 25 percent or greater of the area is 
dominated by sagebrush cover (Wisdom et al. 2011, pp. 465-467; Aldridge 
et al. 2008b, pp. 989-990). At finer scales (1.5-km radius area) and 
during the breeding season, at least 5 percent of the landscape needs 
to be dominated by sagebrush to be preferred by nesting sage-grouse 
(Aldridge et al. 2012, p. 400). These studies and figures demonstrate 
the uncertainty in how large landscapes must be to support Gunnison 
sage-grouse populations, at what scale habitat selection occurs and, 
therefore, at what scale habitat should be evaluated and mapped.
    To address this uncertainty, we used GIS to evaluate Gunnison sage-
grouse habitats at multiple spatial scales and compared the results to 
our current knowledge of the species' range and habitat. We applied a 
moving windows analysis (ESRI ``Neighborhood Analysis'' Tool) to three 
prominent sagebrush landcover types in Gunnison sage-grouse range 
(Intermountain Basin big sagebrush shrubland, Intermountain Basin 
montane sagebrush steppe, and Colorado Plateau mixed low sagebrush 
shrubland) isolated (reclassified) from the SWReGAP land cover raster 
dataset (30-meter resolution) (USGS 2004, entire). Several other 
regional sagebrush land cover types were not included in our analysis 
either because they occur outside of Gunnison sage-grouse range or are 
limited in extent or land cover types and are generally considered less 
important to the species. We then quantified the land cover of these 
sagebrush habitat types at 54 km, 18 km, 5 km, and 1.5 km radii scales 
(33.6 mi, 11.2 mi, 3.1 mi, and 0.9 mi radii, respectively) to identify 
and map areas where at least 25 percent of the landscape is dominated 
by sagebrush cover (based on Wisdom et al. 2011, pp. 465-467; and 
Aldridge et al. 2008b, pp. 989-990).
    To determine which scale was most applicable for unoccupied 
habitats, we overlaid the various scale (54 km, 18 km, 5 km, and 1.5 km 
radii) analyses with occupied habitat. We found that modeling at the 
finer 1.5-km scale was necessary to identify or ``capture'' all areas 
of known occupied range, particularly in the smaller satellite 
populations where sagebrush habitat is generally limited in extent. 
Larger scales failed to capture areas we know to contain occupied and 
suitable habitats (e.g., at the 54-km scale, only the Gunnison Basin 
area contained areas where at least 25 percent of the landscape is 
dominated by sagebrush cover) (USFWS 2013d, p. 3). Although in our 
final listing rule, published elsewhere in today's Federal Register, we 
found that using a 1.5-km radius (window) analysis was not appropriate 
for evaluating the effects of residential development, for our habitat 
suitability analysis, we found that, at the 1.5-km radius scale (or 
window) (based on Aldridge et al. 2012, p. 400), mapping areas where at 
least 25 percent of the landscape is dominated by sagebrush cover 
(based on Wisdom et al. 2011, pp. 465-467; and Aldridge et al. 2008b, 
pp. 989-990) provided the best estimation of our current knowledge of 
Gunnison sage-grouse occupied range and suitable habitat.
    Based on the information and results above, to evaluate habitat 
suitability for unoccupied Gunnison sage-grouse habitat, we applied the 
1.5-km scale and 25 percent dominant sagebrush land cover attributes. 
This means that areas found to be suitable as unoccupied critical 
habitat contain large portions where at least 25 percent of the 
landscape is dominated by sagebrush cover within a 1.5-km (0.9-mi) 
radius.

Rationale and Other Considerations

    The best available information suggests that currently occupied 
habitat is inadequate for the conservation of the species. The RCP 
evaluated the linear relationship between the mean high count of males 
on leks and the amount of available habitat of ``average quality'' in 
each Gunnison sage-grouse population, and predicted a habitat area in 
excess of 100,000 acres is needed to support a population of 500 birds 
(GSRSC 2005, p. 197). In the absence of habitat loss, inbreeding 
depression, and disease, population viability modeling for Gunnison 
sage-grouse predicted that individual populations greater than 500 
birds may be viable (have a low probability of extinction) over a 50-
year time period (GSRSC 2005, p. 170). These data suggest that an 
individual habitat patch, or the cumulative area of two or more smaller 
habitat patches in close proximity, may need to be in excess of 100,000 
ac (40,500 ha) to support a viable population of Gunnison sage-grouse. 
This model did not take into account the inherent variance in habitat 
structure and quality over the landscape, however, and detailed habitat 
structure and quality data are lacking. Therefore, we consider the 
modeled minimum habitat area to be an approximation.
    The currently occupied habitat areas, for the Pi[ntilde]on Mesa, 
Cerro Summit-Cimarron-Sims Mesa and Crawford populations, which range 
in size from 35,015 ac (14,170 ha) to 44,678 ac (18,080 ha) are smaller 
than the RCP model's predicted minimum required area (Table 1). The 
currently occupied habitat areas in the Monticello-Dove Creek and the 
San Miguel Basin populations population are 112,543 ac (45,544 ha) and 
101,750 ac (16,805 ha),

[[Page 69337]]

respectively (Table 1). These areas only slightly exceed the model's 
predicted minimum required area. While correlative in nature, together 
these data suggest that the currently occupied habitat area for at 
least three populations included in this final designation is 
insufficient for long-term population viability, and may be minimally 
adequate for two populations. Declining trends in the abundance of 
Gunnison sage-grouse outside of the Gunnison Basin further indicate 
that currently occupied habitat for the five satellite populations 
areas included in this final designation may be less than the minimum 
amount of habitat necessary for these populations' long-term viability.
    Occupied habitat within the Gunnison Basin population is much 
larger (592,168 ac (239,600 ha)) than the RCP model's predicted minimum 
required area. However, extensive sagebrush landscapes capable of 
supporting a wide array of seasonal habitats and annual migratory 
patterns for Gunnison sage-grouse are rare across the species' range. 
The Gunnison Basin population is extremely important for the species' 
survival, because it contains approximately 63 percent of the occupied 
habitat and 84 percent of the birds rangewide (see our final rule to 
list Gunnison sage-grouse as threatened, published elsewhere in today's 
Federal Register). Therefore, based on the best available data, we 
determined that currently unoccupied areas in this population are 
essential for the persistence and conservation of the Gunnison sage-
grouse. With the satellite populations declining, providing more 
stability for the Gunnison Basin population through additional expanses 
of sagebrush landscapes is essential for the conservation of the 
species. Further, these unoccupied areas of sagebrush expanses also 
provide potential connectivity to the Crawford and Cerro Summit-
Cimarron-Sims Mesa populations to the west. The small piece of 
unoccupied habitat to the east of the Gunnison Basin provides a link 
between those birds in occupied habitat to the north and west.
    With the exception of the Gunnison Basin critical habitat unit 
(CHU), CHUs for Gunnison sage-grouse collectively contain relatively 
small, and in some cases, isolated, populations of the species. Thus, 
we determined that all currently occupied areas, (except the Poncha 
Pass population area, which does not meet PCE 1), as well as some 
currently unoccupied areas, are essential for the persistence and 
conservation of the Gunnison sage-grouse and help to meet the landscape 
specific habitat criteria set forth above. The best available 
information indicates that, with implementation of special management 
considerations, the CHUs, including the designated unoccupied areas, 
are sufficient to provide for the conservation of the species. 
Designated unoccupied critical habitat in the Gunnison Basin provides 
for dispersal of birds from this larger population to outlying areas 
and satellite populations. We believe that the Cerro Summit-Cimarron-
Sims Mesa unit is particularly important as a linkage area between the 
Gunnison Basin and the Crawford and San Miguel population, and contains 
both occupied and unoccupied critical habitat. Furthermore, unoccupied 
critical habitat across the range of the species offers the potential 
for range expansion and migration, whether associated with 
environmental (e.g., climate change), demographic (e.g., population 
growth), or catastrophic (e.g., large fires) factors.
    When determining critical habitat boundaries within this final 
rule, we made every effort to avoid including lands covered by 
buildings, pavement, and other manmade structures because such lands 
lack physical and biological features essential to the conservation of 
Gunnison sage-grouse. Therefore, we have determined that lands covered 
by existing manmade structures on the effective date of this rule do 
not meet the definition of critical habitat in Section 3(5)(a) of the 
Act, and should not be included in the final designation. For this 
reason, we did not include moderately to highly developed lands around 
the City of Gunnison and Dove Creek in the final designation.
    The scale of the maps we prepared under the parameters for 
publication within the Code of Federal Regulations may not reflect that 
developed lands are not included in the final critical habitat 
designation. Any lands covered by buildings, pavement, and other 
manmade structures on the effective date of this rule left inside 
critical habitat boundaries shown on the maps of this final rule have 
been removed by text in the final rule, and are not designated as 
critical habitat. Therefore, a Federal action involving the lands that 
are removed by text will not trigger section 7 consultation with 
respect to critical habitat and the requirement of no adverse 
modification, unless the specific action would affect the essential 
physical and biological features in the adjacent critical habitat.
    We are designating as critical habitat lands that we have 
determined are occupied at the time of listing (with the exception of 
the Poncha Pass area), and contain the physical or biological features 
to support life-history processes essential to the conservation of the 
species. Because we conclude that the designation of lands occupied at 
the time of listing, standing alone, is not adequate to conserve the 
species, we are also designating lands outside of the geographical area 
occupied at the time of listing that we have determined are essential 
for the conservation of Gunnison sage-grouse.
    Units were designated based on the physical and biological features 
being present to support Gunnison sage-grouse life-history processes. 
All units individually contain all of the identified elements of 
physical and biological features, and each unit as a whole supports 
multiple life-history processes. In a critical habitat determination, 
the Service determines what scale is most meaningful to identifying 
specific areas that meet the definition of ``critical habitat'' under 
the Act. For example, for a wide-ranging, landscape species covering a 
large area of occupied and potential habitat across several States 
(such as the Gunnison sage-grouse), a relatively coarse-scale analysis 
is appropriate and sufficient to designate critical habitat as defined 
by the Act, while for a narrow endemic species, with specialized 
habitat requirements and relatively few discrete occurrences, it might 
be appropriate to engage in a relatively fine-scale analysis for the 
designation of critical habitat.
    The critical habitat designation is defined by the maps, as 
modified by any accompanying regulatory text, presented at the end of 
this final rule. We include more detailed information on the boundaries 
of the critical habitat designation in this preamble to the rule. We 
will make the coordinates on which each map is based available to the 
public on http://www.regulations.gov at Docket No. FWS-R6-ES-2011-0111, 
on our Internet site at http://www.fws.gov/mountain-prairie/species/birds/gunnisonsagegrouse/, and at the field office responsible for the 
designation (see FOR FURTHER INFORMATION CONTACT above).
Reasons for Removing Poncha Pass as a Critical Habitat Unit
    Although we previously proposed designating a critical habitat unit 
in Poncha Pass, information received since the publication of the 
proposed rule (CPW 2013e, p. 1; CPW 2014d, p. 2; CPW 2014e, p. 2; CPW 
2014 f, p. 2) has caused us to reevaluate the appropriateness of 
including the unit. Poncha Pass is thought to have been part of the 
historical distribution of Gunnison sage-grouse. There were no grouse 
there, however, when a

[[Page 69338]]

population was established via transplant from 30 Gunnison Basin birds 
in 1971 and 1972. In 1992, hunters harvested at least 30 grouse from 
the population when CPW inadvertently opened the area to hunting. We 
have no information on the population's trends until 1999, when the 
population was estimated at roughly 25 birds. In one year the 
population declined to less than 5 grouse, after which more grouse were 
brought in, again from the Gunnison Basin, in 2000 and 2001. In 2002, 
the population rose to just over 40 grouse, but starting in 2006, the 
population again started declining until no grouse were detected in lek 
surveys in the spring of 2013 (after publication of the proposed 
critical habitat rule). Grouse were again brought in in the fall of 
2013 and 2014 (CPW 2014e, p. 1), and six grouse were counted in the 
Poncha Pass population during the spring 2014 lek count (CPW 2014d, 
p.2); however, no subsequent evidence of reproduction was found (CPW 
2014f, p. 2).
    We now conclude that the Poncha Pass area, for reasons unknown, is 
not a landscape capable of supporting a population of Gunnison sage-
grouse and therefore does not meet PCE 1. Because the population has 
repeatedly declined to the point of extirpation and is not self-
sustaining, something in the unit is not providing the wide array of 
habitats that support seasonal movement patterns and provide for all 
the life history needs of the Gunnison sage-grouse. While we do not 
consider currently stable populations as being a litmus test for 
designation, we carefully considered the unique history of the grouse's 
repeated extirpation from this particular area, as well as the lack of 
evidence of the landscape functions described by PCE 1, in reaching our 
conclusion that this area does not meet PCE 1 and should not be 
designated as critical habitat.
    We have reached this conclusion for the following reasons: (1) The 
population was extirpated before 1971, declined to fewer than 5 birds 
by 2000, and was again extirpated in 2013 (had more grouse not been 
reintroduced in 2013 and 2014, there would be no grouse currently in 
the Poncha Pass area), (2) to the extent that any of the reintroduced 
birds or their offspring currently survive, the population has 
demonstrated (through the need for repeated transplant efforts) that it 
is not self-sustaining or viable (always with fewer than 50 birds since 
counts began), and (3) we expect that this population will require 
repeated augmentations to avoid yet another extirpation.
    Because this unit is not meeting PCE 1, and therefore does not have 
the necessary physical and biological features essential to the 
conservation of the grouse, we conclude that the Poncha Pass unit does 
not meet the ESA's definition of ``critical habitat.'' Therefore, we 
are removing the entire unit from the final critical habitat 
designation.

Final Critical Habitat Designation

    The critical habitat areas described below constitute our current 
best assessment of areas that meet the definition of critical habitat 
for Gunnison sage-grouse. We are designating approximately 1,429,551 ac 
(578,515 ha) of critical habitat across six units for Gunnison sage-
grouse (Table 1). These six units correspond to six of the seven 
Gunnison sage-grouse populations, including: (1) Monticello-Dove Creek, 
(2) Pi[ntilde]on Mesa, (3) San Miguel Basin, (4) Cerro Summit-Cimarron-
Sims Mesa, (5) Crawford, and (6) Gunnison Basin. We consider 
approximately 55 percent of all critical habitat to be currently 
occupied and 45 percent to be currently unoccupied by Gunnison sage-
grouse (Table 4). Of this critical habitat designation, approximately 
55 percent occurs on Federal land; 43 percent occurs on private land; 2 
percent occurs on State land; and less than 0.1 percent occurs on city 
and county land (Table 5). Table 4 provides the size and occupancy 
status of Gunnison sage-grouse for each critical habitat unit; Table 5 
provides land ownership and occupancy status of Gunnison sage-grouse 
for each critical habitat unit. Calculated acres reflect exclusions 
from this final critical habitat designation, including private lands 
under CE, properties with a CI under the CCAA as of the effective date 
of this rule, and the Ute Mountain Ute Tribe's Pinecrest Ranch (see 
Exclusions below).

                     Table 4--Size and Current Occupancy Status of Gunnison Sage-Grouse in Designated Critical Habitat Units \a\ \b\
                                       [Area estimates reflect all land within critical habitat unit boundaries.]
--------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
                                                                      Unit
                                                                   percent of                                                      Percent of   Percent
           Critical habitat unit               Acres     Hectares     total              Occupied?             Acres     Hectares  individual    of all
                                                                      acres                                                           unit       units
--------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
Monticello-Dove Creek......................    343,000    138,807        24.0  Yes.........................    107,061     43,326        31.2        7.5
                                                                               No..........................    235,940     95,481        68.8       16.5
Pi[ntilde]on Mesa..........................    207,792     84,087        14.5  Yes.........................     28,820     11,663        13.9        2.0
                                                                               No..........................    178,972     72,424        86.1       12.5
San Miguel Basin...........................    121,929     49,343         8.5  Yes.........................     81,514     32,988        66.9        5.7
                                                                               No..........................     40,414     16,355        33.1        2.8
Cerro Summit-Cimarron-Sims Mesa............     52,544     21,264         3.7  Yes.........................     33,675     13,628        64.1        2.4
                                                                               No..........................     18,869      7,636        35.9        1.3
Crawford...................................     83,671     33,860         5.9  Yes.........................     32,632     13,206        39.0        2.3
                                                                               No..........................     51,039     20,655        61.0        3.6
Gunnison Basin.............................    620,616    251,154        43.4  Yes.........................    500,909    202,711        80.7       35.0
                                                                               No..........................    119,707     48,444        19.3        8.4
All Units..................................  1,429,551    578,515       100    Yes.........................    784,611    317,521        54.9       54.9
                                                                               No..........................    644,940    260,994        45.1       45.1
--------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
\a\ Area sizes may not sum precisely due to rounding.
\b\ Area sizes reflect lands excluded in this final critical habitat designation including private lands under CE, CCAA properties, and the Ute Mountain
  Ute Tribe's Pinecrest Ranch.


[[Page 69339]]


                    Table 5--Land Ownership and Occupancy Status of Gunnison Sage-Grouse in Designated Critical Habitat Units \a\ \b\
--------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
                                                                         Federal                State            City and county           Private
                                                                 ---------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
         Critical habitat unit                  Occupied?          Percent               Percent               Percent               Percent
                                                                      of      Percent       of      Percent       of      Percent       of      Percent
                                                                   subunit    of unit    subunit    of unit    subunit    of unit    subunit    of unit
--------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
Monticello-Dove Creek..................  Yes....................        7.9       13.0        3.1        1.0  .........  .........       89.0       86.0
                                         No.....................       15.3  .........        0.0  .........  .........  .........       84.7  .........
Pi[ntilde]on Mesa......................  Yes....................       44.9       73.3        0.0        0.0  .........  .........       55.1       26.6
                                         No.....................       77.9  .........        0.0  .........  .........  .........       22.0  .........
San Miguel Basin.......................  Yes....................       45.5       40.6       18.4       12.3  .........  .........       36.1       47.1
                                         No.....................       30.7  .........        0.0  .........  .........  .........       69.3  .........
Cerro Summit-Cimarron-Sims Mesa........  Yes....................       14.5       18.8       12.1        7.7  .........  .........       73.5       73.5
                                         No.....................       26.5  .........        0.0  .........  .........  .........       73.5  .........
Crawford...............................  Yes....................       81.3       52.6        0.0        0.0  .........  .........       18.7       47.4
                                         No.....................       34.3  .........        0.0  .........  .........  .........       65.7  .........
Gunnison Basin.........................  Yes....................       79.2       77.5        2.8        2.3        0.0        0.0       18.0       20.2
                                         No.....................       70.3  .........        0.3  .........  .........  .........       29.3  .........
All Units..............................  Yes....................       62.0       54.6        4.6        2.6        0.0        0.0       33.4       42.8
                                         No.....................       45.7  .........        0.1  .........  .........  .........       54.2  .........
                                                                 ---------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
    Total..............................  .......................       54.6       54.6        2.6        2.6        0.0        0.0       42.8       42.8
--------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
\a\ Percentages may not sum precisely due to rounding.
\b\ Percentages reflect lands excluded in this final critical habitat designation including private lands under CE, CCAA properties, and the Ute
  Mountain Ute Tribe's Pinecrest Ranch (see Exclusions).

    We present below a general description for all critical habitat 
units, followed by brief descriptions of each individual unit, and 
reasons why they meet the definition of critical habitat for Gunnison 
sage-grouse. Various protection efforts on lands within these units are 
described in our final rule to list Gunnison sage-grouse as threatened, 
published elsewhere in today's Federal Register; in that publication, 
see the following sections: Other Regulatory Mechanisms: Conservation 
Easements; and Related Conservation Programs and Efforts.

Unit Descriptions

    All units were likely historically occupied by Gunnison sage-grouse 
(GSRSC 2005, pp. 32-35, as adapted from Schroeder et al. 2004, entire), 
but we recognize that only portions of these units would have been 
occupied at any one time. As discussed above, we found that all lands 
identified as critical habitat are essential to the conservation of the 
Gunnison sage-grouse for the following reasons:
    (1) The loss of sagebrush habitats within the potential 
presettlement range of Gunnison sage-grouse is associated with a 
substantial reduction in the species range (88 to 93 percent). The best 
available information indicates a substantial reduction of Gunnison 
sage-grouse distribution since Euro-American settlement in the 1800s, 
with evidence of the loss of peripheral populations (Schroeder et al. 
2004, p. 371, and references therein) and a northward trend of 
extirpation (Schroeder et al. 2004, p. 369).
    (2) The Gunnison Basin population is the most important population 
for the species' survival with approximately 63 percent of occupied 
habitat, approximately 60 percent of the leks, and 84 percent of the 
rangewide population. It has been relatively stable based on the last 
19 years of lek counts (but see Effective Population Size and 
Population Viability Analyses in the Factor E discussion in the final 
listing rule published elsewhere in today's Federal Register).
    (3) In contrast to the Gunnison Basin population, the remaining 
five populations included in this final designation are much smaller 
and all but two have declined substantially from 1996 to 2014, despite 
transplant efforts in most of these areas since 2000 (CPW 2014c, 
entire); also see Current Distribution and Population Estimates and 
Trends in our final rule to list Gunnison sage-grouse, published 
elsewhere in today's Federal Register. These five populations are 
currently geographically isolated and are genetically at risk. The San 
Miguel Basin Gunnison sage-grouse effective population size is below 
the level at which inbreeding depression has been observed to occur. 
Because the remaining Gunnison sage-grouse satellite populations are 
smaller than the San Miguel population, they are likely small enough to 
induce inbreeding depression, and could be losing adaptive potential 
(Stiver et al. 2008, p. 479). The majority of the satellite populations 
are still rebounding from declines that coincided with a drought cycle 
from 1999 to 2003 (CPW 2014c, entire). Our analysis in our final rule 
to list the Gunnison sage-grouse suggests that resiliency is limited in 
the satellite populations (for more discussion, see Small Population 
Size and Structure section in the final listing rule published 
elsewhere in today's Federal Register).
    (4) Existing small populations are at higher risk of extirpation 
due to stochastic events. The smaller populations are important to the 
long-term viability of Gunnison sage-grouse because they: (1) Increase 
species abundance rangewide; (2) minimize the threat of catastrophic 
events to the species since the populations are widely distributed 
across the landscape; and (3) likely provide additional genetic 
diversity not found in the Gunnison Basin (with the exception of the 
Poncha Pass population) (GSRSC 2005, p. 199). Thus, multiple 
populations are needed to provide population redundancy, and to 
increase the species' chances of survival in the face of environmental, 
demographic, and genetic stochastic factors and random catastrophic 
events (extreme drought, fire, disease, etc.). Multiple populations 
across a broad geographic area provide insurance against catastrophic 
events, and the aggregate number of individuals across all populations 
increases the probability of demographic persistence and preservation 
of overall genetic diversity (with the exception of the Poncha Pass 
population) by providing an important

[[Page 69340]]

genetic reservoir (representation) (GSRSC 2005, p. 179) (see the Small 
Population Size and Structure section in the final listing rule, 
published elsewhere in today's Federal Register).
    (5) Currently occupied habitat area for five of the six populations 
included in this final designation (with the exception of the Gunnison 
Basin population) may be less than the minimum amount of habitat 
necessary for the long-term viability of each population.
    Designation of critical habitat limited to the Gunnison sage-
grouse's present occupied range would be inadequate to ensure the 
conservation of the species. Therefore, we are designating areas of 
potential historical habitat that are not known to be currently 
occupied, for the following reasons:
    (1) Current population sizes of the five smaller Gunnison sage-
grouse populations included in this final designation are at such low 
levels that they must increase in order to ensure long-term survival 
(GSRSC 2005, p. G-22). While the occupied portions of the critical 
habitat units provide habitat for current populations, currently 
unoccupied areas will provide habitat for population expansion either 
through natural means, or by reintroduction, thus reducing threats due 
to naturally occurring events.
    (2) Occupied habitat within the Gunnison Basin population is much 
larger (592,168 ac (239,600 ha)) than the RCP model's predicted minimum 
required area. However, extensive sagebrush landscapes capable of 
supporting a wide array of seasonal habitats and annual migratory 
patterns for Gunnison sage-grouse are rare across the species' range. 
The Gunnison Basin population is the largest population, and the 
population is extremely important for the species' survival. With the 
satellite populations declining, providing more stability for the 
Gunnison Basin population through additional expanses of sagebrush 
landscapes is essential for the conservation of the species. Further, 
these unoccupied areas of sagebrush expanses also provide potential 
connectivity to the Crawford and Cerro Summit-Cimarron-Sims Mesa 
populations to the west. The small piece of unoccupied habitat to the 
east of the Gunnison Basin provides a link between those birds in 
occupied habitat to the north and west.
    (3) Population expansion either through natural means or by 
reintroduction into the five small CHUs is necessary to increase the 
long-term viability and decrease the risk of extirpation of the 
populations in these units through stochastic events, such as fires or 
drought, as the current, isolated populations are each at high risk of 
extirpation from such stochastic events (GSRSC 2005, p. G-22), 
particularly because of their small sizes and restricted ranges.
    (4) Unoccupied portions of all six CHUs decrease the geographic 
isolation of the current geographic distribution of the Gunnison sage-
grouse by increasing the connectivity between occupied habitats and 
populations.
    (5) Unoccupied portions of units are in areas that were occupied in 
the past and are located within the historical range of the species 
such that they will serve as corridors, or movement areas, between 
currently occupied areas. All unoccupied subunits lie within 18.5 km of 
an occupied area. We considered unoccupied areas as critical habitat if 
they, among other things, are located within approximately 18.5 km 
(11.5 mi) of occupied habitat based on typical sage-grouse movement 
distances (Connelly 2000a, p. 978; GSRSC 2005, p. J-5) because these 
areas have the highest likelihood of receiving Gunnison sage-grouse use 
and potential for occupied habitat expansion.
Unit 1: Monticello-Dove Creek
    Unit 1 consists of 343,000 ac (138,807 ha) of Federal, State, and 
private lands in San Juan County, Utah; and Montrose, San Miguel, and 
Dolores Counties, Colorado. Approximately 13 percent of the land area 
within the unit is managed by Federal agencies, 1 percent is owned by 
the State of Colorado and the State of Utah, and the remaining 86 
percent comprises private lands. We consider 33 percent of this unit to 
be currently occupied by Gunnison sage-grouse, based on mapping 
developed for the 2005 RCP, as updated (GSRSC 2005, p. 54; CPW 2013e, 
spatial data). Tables 4 and 5 provide detailed acreage estimates for 
all critical habitat units.
    The occupied portion of the Monticello-Dove Creek Unit contains the 
physical and biological features essential to the conservation of the 
Gunnison sage-grouse, but these areas are interspersed within lands in 
agricultural production. Within the occupied portion of this Unit, 
approximately 23,220 ha (57,377 ac) or 51 percent of the area is 
currently in agricultural production (USGS 2004, entire). However, a 
significant portion of the agricultural lands within the Unit are 
enrolled in the USDA Farm Service Agency's Conservation Reserve Program 
(CRP), which is a land conservation program where farmers agree to 
remove environmentally sensitive lands from agricultural production in 
exchange for a yearly rental payment. Many CRP lands are used by 
Gunnison sage-grouse (Lupis et al. 2006, pp. 959-960; Ward 2007, p. 
15).
    Factors potentially affecting the physical and biological features 
of the Monticello-Dove Creek Unit include, but are not limited to: 
Habitat loss, degradation, and fragmentation resulting from conversion 
to agriculture; climate change, drought-related effects; oil and gas 
production and associated infrastructure; the proliferation of 
predators of Gunnison sage-grouse; the spread of invasive plant species 
and associated changes in sagebrush plant community structure and 
dynamics; and past and present grazing management that degrades or 
eliminates vegetation structure; all of which can result in the loss, 
degradation, or fragmentation of sagebrush plant communities. Special 
management actions that may be needed to address these threats include, 
but are not limited to: The rangewide prioritization and protection of 
crucial seasonal habitats from development and agricultural conversion; 
the control of invasive plant species and restoration of historic plant 
community structure and dynamics, including altered fire regimes and 
other natural disturbance factors; and the implementation of grazing 
regimes that result in proper vegetation structure for Gunnison sage-
grouse life-history needs in areas used for domestic and wild ungulate 
grazing and browsing.
    Limiting the designation of critical habitat in this unit only to 
currently occupied areas would be inadequate to ensure the conservation 
of the species. Accordingly, we are designating currently unoccupied 
areas that we conclude are essential for the conservation of the 
species. Designated unoccupied habitat comprises approximately 69 
percent of the unit, including lands defined in the 2005 RCP as 
potential habitat or vacant or unknown habitat (GSRSC 2005, p. 54) and 
other unoccupied areas that met our criteria for critical habitat (see 
Criteria and Methods Used to Identify and Map Critical Habitat). We 
acknowledge, however, that portions of these unoccupied lands are 
locally unsuitable as habitat for Gunnison sage-grouse. For instance, 
some areas within the critical habitat unit are dominated by 
pi[ntilde]on-juniper communities (Messmer 2013, p. 17). As described 
earlier, critical habitat was identified on a landscape scale, and 
includes areas with varying amounts of overall sagebrush cover, plus 
habitat types that may facilitate bird movements and dispersal. These 
areas are also located adjacent to occupied

[[Page 69341]]

habitat or are located immediately between surrounding populations. In 
addition to contributing to the fulfillment of the landscape scale 
habitat needs of Gunnison sage-grouse, these areas provide habitat for 
future population growth and reestablishment of portions of 
presettlement range, and facilitate movement between other units and 
within the unit.
    Some unoccupied habitat areas within this unit consist of lands 
that recently supported sagebrush-dominant plant communities but are 
currently in agricultural production or are currently subject to 
encroachment by coniferous trees or shrubs, most commonly pi[ntilde]on-
juniper or mountain shrub plant communities. These areas require 
management to reestablish or enhance sagebrush communities to support 
the primary constituent elements of Gunnison sage-grouse nesting or 
brood-rearing habitats. However, in their current state, these areas 
provide essential habitat for inter-population movements and thus may 
reduce population isolation and increase genetic exchange among 
populations.
Unit 2: Pi[ntilde]on Mesa
    Unit 2, the Pi[ntilde]on Mesa Unit, consists of 207,792 ac (84,087 
ha) of Federal, State, and private lands in Grand County, Utah, and 
Mesa County, Colorado. Approximately 73 percent of the land area within 
the unit is managed by Federal agencies, less than 1 percent is owned 
by the State of Utah, and 27 percent comprises private lands. We 
consider 14 percent of this unit to be currently occupied by Gunnison 
sage-grouse, based on mapping developed for the 2005 RCP and 
subsequently (GSRSC 2005, p. 54; CPW 2013e, spatial data). Tables 4 and 
5 provide detailed estimates for all critical habitat units. The 
occupied portion of the Pi[ntilde]on Mesa Unit contains the physical 
and biological features essential to the conservation of Gunnison sage-
grouse.
    Factors potentially affecting the physical and biological features 
of the Pi[ntilde]on Mesa Unit include, but are not limited to: 
Residential and commercial development including associated land-
clearing activities for the construction of access roads, utilities, 
and fences; increased recreational use of roads and trails; the 
proliferation of predators of Gunnison sage-grouse; climate change, 
drought-related effects; the spread of invasive plant species and 
associated changes in sagebrush plant community structure and dynamics; 
and past and present grazing management that degrades or eliminates 
vegetation structure; all of which can result in the loss, degradation, 
or fragmentation of sagebrush plant communities. Special management 
actions that may be needed to address these threats include, but are 
not limited to: The rangewide prioritization and protection of crucial 
seasonal habitats subject to future residential and commercial 
development and increasing recreational use of roads and trails; the 
control of invasive plant species and restoration of historical plant 
community structure and dynamics, including altered fire regimes and 
other natural disturbance factors; and the implementation of grazing 
regimes that result in proper vegetation structure for Gunnison sage-
grouse life-history needs in areas used for domestic and wild ungulate 
grazing and browsing.
    Limiting the designation of critical habitat in this unit only to 
currently occupied areas would be inadequate to ensure the conservation 
of the species. Accordingly, we are designating currently unoccupied 
areas that we conclude are essential for the conservation of the 
species. Designated unoccupied habitat comprises approximately 86 
percent of the unit, including lands defined in the 2005 RCP as 
potential habitat or vacant or unknown habitat (GSRSC 2005, p. 54) and 
other unoccupied areas that met our criteria for critical habitat (see 
Criteria and Methods Used to Identify and Map Critical Habitat). These 
areas consist of lands with varying amounts of overall sagebrush cover, 
or have habitat types suitable for movements and dispersal. These areas 
are also located adjacent to occupied habitat or are located 
immediately between surrounding populations. In addition to 
contributing to the fulfillment of the landscape specific habitat needs 
of Gunnison sage-grouse, these areas provide habitat for future 
population growth and reestablishment of portions of presettlement 
range, and facilitate or allow movement between other units and within 
the unit. Some unoccupied habitat areas within this unit consist of 
lands that recently supported sagebrush-dominant plant communities but 
are currently in agricultural production or are currently subject to 
encroachment by coniferous trees or shrubs, most commonly pi[ntilde]on-
juniper or mountain shrub plant communities. These areas require 
management to reestablish or enhance sagebrush communities to support 
the primary constituent elements of Gunnison sage-grouse nesting or 
brood-rearing habitat. However, in their current state, these areas 
provide essential habitat for inter-population movements and thus may 
reduce population isolation and increase genetic exchange among 
populations.
Unit 3: San Miguel Basin
    Unit 3, the San Miguel Basin Unit, consists of 121,929 ac (49,343 
ha) of Federal, State, and private lands in Montrose, San Miguel, and 
Ouray counties, Colorado. Approximately 41 percent of the land area 
within the unit is managed by Federal agencies, 12 percent is owned by 
the State of Colorado, and 47 percent comprises private lands. We 
consider 67 percent of this unit to be currently occupied by Gunnison 
sage-grouse, based on mapping developed for the 2005 RCP and 
subsequently (GSRSC 2005, p. 54; CPW 2013e, spatial data). Tables 4 and 
5 provide detailed estimates for all critical habitat units. The 
occupied portion of the San Miguel Basin Unit contains the physical and 
biological features essential to the conservation of the Gunnison sage-
grouse.
    Factors potentially affecting the physical and biological features 
within the San Miguel Basin Unit include, but are not limited to: 
Residential and commercial development including associated land-
clearing activities for the construction of access roads, utilities, 
and fences; increased recreational use of roads and trails; the 
proliferation of predators of Gunnison sage-grouse; climate change, 
drought-related effects; the spread of invasive plant species and 
associated changes in sagebrush plant community structure and dynamics; 
past and present grazing management that degrades or eliminates 
vegetation structure; and oil and gas development and associated 
infrastructure, all of which can result in the loss, degradation, or 
fragmentation of sagebrush plant communities. Special management 
actions that may be needed to address these threats include, but are 
not limited to: The rangewide prioritization and protection of crucial 
seasonal habitats subject to future residential and commercial 
development (including oil and gas development) and increasing 
recreational use of roads and trails; the control of invasive plant 
species and restoration of historical plant community structure and 
dynamics, including altered fire regimes and other natural disturbance 
factors; and the implementation of grazing regimes that result in 
proper vegetation structure for Gunnison sage-grouse life-history needs 
in areas used for domestic and wild ungulate grazing and browsing.
    Limiting the designation of critical habitat in this unit only to 
currently occupied areas would be inadequate to ensure the conservation 
of the species.

[[Page 69342]]

Accordingly, we are designating currently unoccupied areas that we 
conclude are essential for the conservation of the species. Designated 
unoccupied habitat comprises approximately 33 percent of the unit 
including lands defined in the 2005 RCP as potential habitat or vacant 
or unknown habitat (GSRSC 2005, p. 54) and other unoccupied areas that 
met our criteria for critical habitat (see Criteria and Methods Used to 
Identify and Map Critical Habitat). These areas consist of lands with 
varying amounts of overall sagebrush cover, or have habitat types 
suitable for movements and dispersal. These areas are also located 
adjacent to occupied habitat or are located immediately between 
surrounding populations. In addition to contributing to the fulfillment 
of the landscape scale habitat needs of Gunnison sage-grouse, these 
areas provide habitat for future population growth and reestablishment 
of portions of presettlement range, and facilitate or allow movement 
between other units and within the unit.
    Some unoccupied habitat areas within this unit consist of lands 
that recently supported sagebrush-dominant plant communities but are 
currently in agricultural production or are currently subject to 
encroachment by coniferous trees or shrubs, most commonly pi[ntilde]on-
juniper or mountain shrub plant communities. These areas require 
management to reestablish or enhance sagebrush communities to support 
the primary constituent elements of Gunnison sage-grouse nesting or 
brood-rearing habitat. However, in their current state, these areas 
provide essential habitat for inter-population movements and thus may 
reduce population isolation and increase genetic exchange among 
populations.
Unit 4: Cerro Summit-Cimarron-Sims Mesa
    Unit 4, Cerro Summit-Cimarron-Sims Mesa Unit, consists of 52,544 ac 
(21,264 ha) of Federal, State, and private lands in Montrose, Ouray, 
and Gunnison Counties, Colorado. Approximately 19 percent of the land 
area within the unit is managed by Federal agencies, 8 percent is owned 
by the State of Colorado, and 74 percent comprises private lands. We 
consider 64 percent of this unit to be currently occupied by Gunnison 
sage-grouse, based on mapping developed for the 2005 RCP and 
subsequently (GSRSC 2005, p. 54; CPW 2013e, spatial data). Tables 4 and 
5 provide detailed estimates for all critical habitat units. The 
occupied portion of the Cerro Summit-Cimarron-Sims Mesa Unit contains 
the physical and biological features essential to the conservation of 
the Gunnison sage-grouse.
    Due to the amount of private land within this population, and the 
small size and scattered nature of the individual populations, we do 
not consider that having a viable population in this area to be 
necessary for the conservation of the species. However, we conclude 
that this population area currently provides a key linkage area between 
the Gunnison Basin and the Crawford and San Miguel populations. Data 
indicates that current gene flow between populations is very low 
(Oyler-McCance et al. 2005, p. 635), but if potentially suitable 
habitat is restored in these population areas, then the Cerro Summit-
Cimarron-Sims Mesa population area could provide connectivity for gene 
flow between these populations. Therefore, we are finalizing critical 
habitat in this unit primarily for the purpose of facilitating 
connectivity between Gunnison Basin and the two smaller populations.
    Factors potentially affecting the physical and biological features 
of the Cerro Summit-Cimarron-Sims Mesa Unit include, but are not 
limited to: Residential and commercial development including associated 
land-clearing activities for the construction of access roads, 
utilities, and fences; increased recreational use of roads and trails; 
the proliferation of predators of Gunnison sage-grouse; the spread of 
invasive plant species and associated changes in sagebrush plant 
community structure and dynamics; climate change, drought-related 
effects; and past and present grazing management that degrades or 
eliminates vegetation structure; all of which can result in the loss, 
degradation, or fragmentation of sagebrush plant communities. Special 
management actions that may be needed to address these threats include, 
but are not limited to: The rangewide prioritization and protection of 
crucial seasonal habitats subject to future residential and commercial 
development and increasing recreational use of roads and trails; the 
control of invasive plant species and restoration of historical plant 
community structure and dynamics, including altered fire regimes and 
other natural disturbance factors; and the implementation of grazing 
regimes that result in proper vegetation structure for Gunnison sage-
grouse life-history needs in areas used for domestic and wild ungulate 
grazing and browsing.
    Limiting the designation of critical habitat in this unit only to 
currently occupied areas would be inadequate to ensure the conservation 
of the species. Accordingly, we are designating currently unoccupied 
areas that we conclude are essential for the conservation of the 
species. Designated unoccupied habitat comprises approximately 36 
percent of the unit including lands defined in the 2005 RCP as 
potential habitat or vacant or unknown habitat (GSRSC 2005, p. 54) and 
other unoccupied areas that met our criteria as critical habitat (see 
Criteria and Methods Used to Identify and Map Critical Habitat). These 
areas consist of lands with varying amounts of overall sagebrush cover, 
or have habitat types suitable for movements and dispersal. These areas 
are also located adjacent to occupied habitat or are located 
immediately between surrounding populations. In addition to 
contributing to the fulfillment of the landscape scale habitat needs of 
Gunnison sage-grouse, these areas provide an important linkage area 
between populations.
    Some unoccupied habitat areas within this unit consist of lands 
that recently supported sagebrush-dominant plant communities but are 
currently in agricultural production or are currently subject to 
encroachment by coniferous trees or shrubs, most commonly pi[ntilde]on-
juniper or mountain shrub plant communities. These areas require 
management to reestablish or enhance sagebrush communities to support 
the primary constituent elements of Gunnison sage-grouse nesting or 
brood-rearing habitat. However, in their current state, these areas 
provide essential habitat for inter-population movements and thus may 
reduce population isolation and increase genetic exchange among 
populations.
Unit 5: Crawford
    Unit 5, the Crawford Unit, consists of 83,671 ac (33,860 ha) of 
Federal and private lands in Delta, Montrose, and Gunnison Counties, 
Colorado. Approximately 53 percent of the land area within the unit is 
managed by Federal agencies, and 47 percent comprises private lands. We 
consider 39 percent of this unit to be currently occupied by Gunnison 
sage-grouse, based on mapping developed for the 2005 RCP and 
subsequently (GSRSC 2005, p. 54; CPW 2013e, spatial data). Tables 4 and 
5 provide detailed estimates for all critical habitat units. The 
occupied portion of the Crawford Unit contains the physical and 
biological features essential to the conservation of the Gunnison sage-
grouse.
    Factors potentially affecting the physical and biological features 
of the Crawford Unit include, but are not limited to: Residential and 
commercial development including associated land-

[[Page 69343]]

clearing activities for the construction of access roads, utilities, 
and fences; increased recreational use of roads and trails; the 
proliferation of predators of Gunnison sage-grouse; climate change, 
drought-related effects; the spread of invasive plant species and 
associated changes in sagebrush plant community structure and dynamics; 
and past and present grazing management that degrades or eliminates 
vegetation structure; all of which can result in the loss, degradation, 
or fragmentation of sagebrush plant communities. Special management 
actions that may be needed to address these threats include, but are 
not limited to: The rangewide prioritization and protection of crucial 
seasonal habitats subject to future residential and commercial 
development and increasing recreational use of roads and trails; the 
control of invasive plant species and restoration of historical plant 
community structure and dynamics, including altered fire regimes and 
other natural disturbance factors; and the implementation of grazing 
regimes that result in proper vegetation structure for Gunnison sage-
grouse life-history needs in areas used for domestic and wild ungulate 
grazing and browsing.
    Limiting the designation of critical habitat in this unit only to 
currently occupied areas would be inadequate to ensure the conservation 
of the species. Accordingly, we are designating currently unoccupied 
areas that we conclude are essential for the conservation of the 
species. Designated unoccupied habitat comprises approximately 61 
percent of the unit including lands defined in the 2005 RCP as 
potential habitat or vacant or unknown habitat (GSRSC 2005, p. 54) and 
other unoccupied areas that met our criteria for critical habitat (see 
Criteria and Methods Used to Identify and Map Critical Habitat). These 
areas consist of lands with varying amounts of overall sagebrush cover, 
or have habitat types suitable for movements and dispersal. These areas 
are also located adjacent to occupied habitat or are located 
immediately between surrounding populations. In addition to 
contributing to the fulfillment of the landscape scale habitat needs of 
Gunnison sage-grouse, these areas provide habitat for future population 
growth and reestablishment of portions of presettlement range, and 
facilitate or allow movement between other units and within the unit.
    Some unoccupied habitat areas within this unit consist of lands 
that recently supported sagebrush-dominant plant communities but are 
currently in agricultural production or are currently subject to 
encroachment by coniferous trees or shrubs, most commonly pi[ntilde]on-
juniper or mountain shrub plant communities. These areas require 
management to reestablish or enhance sagebrush communities to support 
the primary constituent elements of Gunnison sage-grouse nesting or 
brood-rearing habitat. However, in their current state, these areas 
provide essential habitat for inter-population movements and thus may 
reduce population isolation and increase genetic exchange among 
populations.
Unit 6: Gunnison Basin
    Unit 6, the Gunnison Basin Unit, consists of 620,616 ac (251,154 
ha) of Federal, State, local government, and private lands in Gunnison, 
Hinsdale, Montrose, and Saguache Counties, Colorado. Approximately 78 
percent of the land area within the unit is managed by Federal 
agencies, 2 percent is owned by the State of Colorado, less than 0.1 
percent is owned by Gunnison County and the City of Gunnison, and 20 
percent comprises private lands. We consider 81 percent of this unit to 
be currently occupied, based on mapping developed for the 2005 RCP and 
subsequently (GSRSC 2005, p. 54; CPW 2013e, spatial data). Tables 4 and 
5 provide detailed estimates for all critical habitat units. The 
Gunnison Basin contains the largest remaining expanse of sagebrush 
plant communities within the occupied range of Gunnison sage-grouse. 
The occupied portion of the Gunnison Basin Unit contains the physical 
and biological features essential to the conservation of the Gunnison 
sage-grouse.
    Factors potentially affecting the physical and biological features 
of the Gunnison Basin Unit include, but are not limited to: Residential 
and commercial development including associated land-clearing 
activities for the construction of access roads, utilities, and fences; 
increased recreational use of roads and trails; climate change, 
drought-related effects; the proliferation of predators of Gunnison 
sage-grouse; the spread of invasive plant species and associated 
changes in sagebrush plant community structure and dynamics; and past 
and present grazing management that degrades or eliminates vegetation 
structure; all of which can result in the loss, degradation, or 
fragmentation of sagebrush plant communities. Special management 
actions that may be needed to address these threats include, but are 
not limited to: The rangewide prioritization and protection of crucial 
seasonal habitats subject to future residential and commercial 
development and increasing recreational use of roads and trails; the 
control of invasive plant species and restoration of historical plant 
community structure and dynamics, including altered fire regimes and 
other natural disturbance factors; and the implementation of grazing 
regimes that result in proper vegetation structure for Gunnison sage-
grouse life-history needs in areas used for domestic and wild ungulate 
grazing and browsing.
    Limiting the designation of critical habitat in this unit only to 
currently occupied areas would be inadequate to ensure the conservation 
of the species. Accordingly, we are designating currently unoccupied 
areas that we conclude are essential for the conservation of the 
species. Designated unoccupied habitat comprises approximately 19 
percent of the unit including lands defined in the 2005 RCP as 
potential habitat or vacant or unknown habitat (GSRSC 2005, p. 54; CPW 
2013e, spatial data) and other unoccupied areas that met our criteria 
for critical habitat (see Criteria and Methods Used to Identify and Map 
Critical Habitat). These areas consist of lands with varying amounts of 
overall sagebrush cover, or have habitat types suitable for movements 
and dispersal. These areas are also located adjacent to occupied 
habitat or are located immediately between surrounding populations.
    Occupied habitat within the Gunnison Basin population is much 
larger (592,168 ac (239,600 ha)) than the RCP model's predicted minimum 
required area. However, extensive sagebrush landscapes capable of 
supporting a wide array of seasonal habitats and annual migratory 
patterns for Gunnison sage-grouse are rare across the species' range. 
The Gunnison Basin population is the largest population, and the 
population is extremely important for the species' survival. With the 
satellite populations declining, providing more stability for the 
Gunnison Basin population through additional expanses of sagebrush 
landscapes is essential for the conservation of the species. Further, 
these unoccupied areas of sagebrush expanses also provide potential 
connectivity to the Crawford and Cerro Summit-Cimarron-Sims Mesa 
populations to the west. The small piece of unoccupied habitat to the 
east of the Gunnison Basin provides a link between those birds in 
occupied habitat to the north and west.
    Some unoccupied habitat areas within this unit consist of lands 
that recently supported sagebrush-dominant plant communities but are 
currently in agricultural production or are currently

[[Page 69344]]

subject to encroachment by coniferous trees or shrubs, most commonly 
pi[ntilde]on-juniper or mountain shrub plant communities. These areas 
require management to reestablish or enhance sagebrush communities to 
support the primary constituent elements of Gunnison sage-grouse 
nesting or brood-rearing habitat. However, in their current state, 
these areas provide essential habitat for inter-population movements 
and thus may reduce population isolation and increase genetic exchange 
among populations. The maintenance and enhancement of inter-population 
connectivity is particularly important for the Gunnison Basin because 
it is the largest population in the species' range and is, therefore, 
the most likely source of dispersal of Gunnison sage-grouse to other 
populations.

Effects of Critical Habitat Designation

Section 7 Consultation

    Section 7(a)(2) of the Act requires Federal agencies, including the 
Service, to ensure that any action they fund, authorize, or carry out 
is not likely to jeopardize the continued existence of any endangered 
species or threatened species or result in the destruction or adverse 
modification of designated critical habitat of such species. In 
addition, section 7(a)(4) of the Act requires Federal agencies to 
confer with the Service on any agency action that is likely to 
jeopardize the continued existence of any species proposed to be listed 
under the Act or result in the destruction or adverse modification of 
proposed critical habitat.
    Decisions by the 5th and 9th Circuit Courts of Appeals have 
invalidated our previous regulatory 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, 245 F.3d 434, 442 (5th 
Cir. 2001)), and we do not rely on this regulatory definition when 
analyzing whether an action is likely to destroy or adversely modify 
critical habitat. Under the statutory provisions of 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 continue to serve its intended conservation role 
for the species. We note that the Service has proposed to amend the 
definition of ``destruction or adverse modification of critical 
habitat'' to (1) more explicitly tie the definition to the stated 
purpose of the Act; and, (2) more clearly contrast the definitions of 
``destruction or adverse modification'' and ``jeopardize the continued 
existence of' (79 FR 27060).
    If a Federal action may affect a listed species or its critical 
habitat, the responsible Federal agency (action agency) must enter into 
consultation with us. Examples of actions that are subject to the 
section 7 consultation process are actions on State, tribal, local, or 
private lands that require 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 a permit from the Service under section 10 
of the Act) or that involve some other Federal action (such as funding 
from the Federal Highway Administration, Federal Aviation 
Administration, or the Federal Emergency Management Agency). Federal 
actions not affecting listed species or critical habitat, and actions 
on State, tribal, local, or private lands that are not federally funded 
or authorized, do not require section 7 consultation.
    As noted earlier, when determining the critical habitat boundaries 
for this rule, we made every effort to avoid including lands covered by 
buildings, pavement, and other manmade structures (as of the effective 
date of this rule), based on our determination that such lands lack 
physical and biological features essential to the conservation of 
Gunnison sage-grouse and therefore do not meet the definition of 
critical habitat in Section 3(5)(a) of the Act. The scale of the maps 
we prepared under the parameters for publication within the Code of 
Federal Regulations, however, may not reflect our determination that 
such lands are not included in the final designation. As a result, we 
have included text in the final rule to make this point clear. A 
Federal action involving these lands would not trigger section 7 
consultation with respect to critical habitat and the requirement of no 
adverse modification unless the specific action would affect the 
physical and biological features in the adjacent critical habitat, or 
otherwise affect the species.
    As a result of section 7 consultation, we 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 that may affect, or 
are 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 and/or 
destroy or adversely modify critical habitat, we provide reasonable and 
prudent alternatives to the project, if any are identifiable, that 
would avoid the likelihood of jeopardy and/or destruction or adverse 
modification of critical habitat. We define ``reasonable and prudent 
alternatives'' (at 50 CFR 402.02) as alternative actions identified 
during consultation that:
    (1) Can be implemented in a manner consistent with the intended 
purpose of the action,
    (2) Can be implemented consistent with the scope of the Federal 
agency's legal authority and jurisdiction,
    (3) Are economically and technologically feasible, and
    (4) Would, in the Director's opinion, avoid the likelihood of 
jeopardizing the continued existence of the listed species and/or avoid 
the likelihood of 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 certain circumstances, 
including where we have listed a new species or designated critical 
habitat that may be affected, if 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 sometimes may 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.
    On April 21, 2014, the Service received a request from NRCS for 
conferencing under authority of Section 7 of the Act on the NRCS's Farm 
Bill program activities, including the Sage-Grouse Initiative and 
associated procedures, conservation practices, and conservation 
measures. The focus of the resulting conference opinion (which will be 
converted to a biological opinion once the Gunnison sage-grouse is 
listed) will be on the effects of NRCS programs on the Gunnison sage-
grouse and the areas to be designated as critical habitat for this 
species. The Service continues

[[Page 69345]]

to work closely with NRCS on developing the conference opinion and 
anticipates that it will be issued as a final opinion prior to the 
effective date of the final listing determination for Gunnison sage-
grouse. The resulting opinion will provide Endangered Species Act 
compliance for both NRCS and current and future participating 
landowners enrolled in conservation programs and implementing 
conservation practices affecting Gunnison sage-grouse or its designated 
critical habitat, as analyzed within the conference opinion.

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 continue to serve its intended 
conservation role for the species. Activities that may destroy or 
adversely modify occupied critical habitat are those that alter the 
physical and biological features to an extent that appreciably reduces 
the conservation value of critical habitat for Gunnison sage-grouse. As 
discussed above, the role of critical habitat is to support life-
history needs of the species and provide for the conservation of the 
species.
    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 may affect critical habitat, when carried out, 
funded, or authorized by a Federal agency, should result in 
consultation for the Gunnison sage-grouse. These activities include, 
but are not limited to:
    (1) Actions carried out, funded or authorized by a Federal agency 
that would result in the loss of sagebrush overstory plant cover or 
height. Such activities could include, but are not limited to, the 
removal of native shrub vegetation by any means for any infrastructure 
construction project; direct conversion to agricultural land use; 
habitat improvement or restoration projects involving mowing, brush-
beating, Dixie harrowing, disking, plowing, herbicide applications such 
as Tebuthiuron (Spike), or prescribed burning; and fire suppression 
activities. These activities could eliminate or reduce the habitat 
necessary for the production and survival of Gunnison sage-grouse.
    (2) Actions carried out, funded or authorized by a Federal agency 
that would result in the loss or reduction in native herbaceous 
understory plant cover or height, and a reduction or loss of associated 
arthropod communities. Such activities could include, but are not 
limited to, livestock grazing, the application of herbicides or 
insecticides, prescribed burning and fire suppression activities, and 
seeding of nonnative plant species that would compete with native 
species for water, nutrients, and space. These activities could 
eliminate or reduce the quantity and quality of habitat necessary for 
Gunnison sage-grouse nesting and production through a reduction in food 
quality and quantity, and increased exposure to predation.
    (3) Actions carried out, funded or authorized by a Federal agency 
that would result in Gunnison sage-grouse avoidance of an area during 
one or more seasonal periods. Such activities could include, but are 
not limited to, the construction of vertical structures such as power 
lines, fences, communication towers, and buildings; management of 
motorized and nonmotorized recreational use; and activities such as 
well drilling, operation, and maintenance, which would entail 
significant human presence, noise, and infrastructure. These activities 
could result in the direct or functional loss of habitat if they result 
in Gunnison sage-grouse avoidance or more limited use of otherwise 
suitable habitat in the vicinity.

Exemptions

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

    Section 4(a)(3)(B)(i) of the Act (16 U.S.C. 1533(a)(3)(B)(i)) 
provides that: ``The Secretary shall not designate as critical habitat 
any lands or other geographic areas owned or controlled by the 
Department of Defense, or designated for its use, that are subject to 
an integrated natural resources management plan [INRMP] 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 this critical 
habitat designation.

Exclusions

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

    On August 24, 2012 (77 FR 51503) the Services published a proposed 
rule to revise 50 CFR 424.19. In that rule the Services proposed to 
elaborate on the process and standards for implementing section 4(b)(2) 
of the Act. The final rule was published on August 28, 2013 (78 FR 
53058). The revisions to 50 CFR 424.19 provide the framework for how 
the Services intend to implement section 4(b)(2) of the Act. A proposed 
policy meant to complement those revisions and provide further 
clarification as to how we will implement section 4(b)(2) when 
designating critical habitat was published on May 12, 2014 (79 FR 
27052). This draft policy further details the discretion available to 
the Services (acting for the Secretaries) and provides detailed 
examples of how we consider partnerships and conservation plans, 
conservation plans permitted under section 10 of the Act, tribal lands, 
national security and homeland security impacts and military lands, 
Federal lands, and economic impacts in the exclusion process when we 
undertake a discretionary exclusion analysis. The draft policy tracks 
prior and current Service practices regarding the consideration of 
exclusions under section 4(b)(2) of the Act. While the Service is not 
formally following the draft policy, the Service continues to follow 
past practices when considering exclusions and excluding areas under 
section 4(b)(2) of the Act.
    Section 4(b)(2) of the Act states that the Secretary shall 
designate and make revisions to 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 she determines 
that the benefits of such exclusion outweigh the benefits of specifying 
such area as part of the critical habitat, unless she 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. The statute on its face, as well as the legislative history, 
are clear that the Secretary has broad discretion regarding which 
factor(s) to use in making an exclusion determination and how much 
weight to give to any factor.
    In considering whether to exclude a particular area from the 
designation, we identify the benefits of including the area in the 
designation, identify the benefits of excluding the area from the 
designation, and evaluate whether the benefits of exclusion outweigh 
the benefits of inclusion. If the analysis indicates that the benefits 
of exclusion outweigh the benefits of inclusion, the Secretary may 
exercise her discretion to exclude the area only if such exclusion 
would not result in the extinction of the species.
    When identifying the benefits of inclusion for an area, we 
consider,

[[Page 69346]]

among other things, the additional regulatory benefits that area would 
receive from the protection from adverse modification or destruction as 
a result of actions with a Federal nexus; the educational benefits of 
mapping essential habitat for recovery of the listed species; and any 
benefits that may result from a designation due to State or Federal 
laws that may apply to critical habitat.
    When identifying the benefits of exclusion, we consider, among 
other things, whether exclusion of a specific area is likely to result 
in conservation; the continuation, strengthening, or encouragement of 
partnerships; or implementation of a management plan that provides 
equal to or more conservation than a critical habitat designation would 
provide.
    In the case of Gunnison sage-grouse, the benefits of critical 
habitat include public awareness of Gunnison sage-grouse presence and 
the importance of habitat protection, and in cases where a Federal 
nexus exists, increased habitat protection for Gunnison sage-grouse due 
to the protection from adverse modification or destruction of critical 
habitat. Approximately 55 percent of the critical habitat designation 
for Gunnison sage-grouse occurs on Federal land; 43 percent occurs on 
private land; 3 percent occurs on State land; and less than 0.1 percent 
occurs on city and county land. We anticipate that consultations under 
section 7 of the Act for activities on these Federal lands and for 
activities with a Federal nexus on other lands will help avoid and 
minimize impacts on critical habitat and Gunnison sage-grouse, thereby 
promoting the species' recovery. Because this designation provides 
specific areas on maps that are available to the public, the critical 
habitat designation on non-Federal lands (45 percent) will also 
increase public awareness and promote conservation of the species and 
its habitat.
    After identifying the benefits of inclusion and the benefits of 
exclusion, we carefully weigh the two sides to evaluate whether the 
benefits of exclusion outweigh those of inclusion. If our analysis 
indicates that the benefits of exclusion outweigh the benefits of 
inclusion, we then determine whether exclusion would result in 
extinction. If exclusion of an area from critical habitat will result 
in extinction, we will not exclude it from the designation.
    Based on the information provided by entities seeking exclusion, as 
well as any additional public comments received, we evaluated whether 
certain lands in each unit of the critical habitat designation 
(1,621,008 ac (655,957 ha)) were appropriate for exclusion from this 
final designation pursuant to section 4(b)(2) of the Act. For the 
reasons discussed below, we are excluding a total of 191,460 ac (77,481 
ha) of private land from the critical habitat designation for Gunnison 
sage-grouse, including 122,037 ac (49,387 ha) of land under permanent 
CE as of August 28, 2013 according to Lohr and Gray (2013); 81,156 ac 
(32,843 ha) of lands with completed Certificates of Inclusion (CIs) 
under the Gunnison sage-grouse CCAA (of which 24,464 ac (9,900 ha) 
overlaps with CEs) as of the effective date of this rule; and 12,727 ac 
(5,150 ha) of land owned by the Ute Mountain Ute Tribe that is subject 
to a species' conservation plan. Tables 6 and 7 below provide 
approximate areas of lands that meet the definition of critical habitat 
but are being excluded under section 4(b)(2) of the Act from the final 
critical habitat rule. Exclusions are depicted in the critical habitat 
maps. Private land boundaries may not be exact due to mapping 
inconsistencies between land survey data, Geographic Information System 
(GIS) coordinates, and differing mapping layers provided. The private 
lands subject to the identified conservation agreements or easements 
are intended for exclusions and adjacent lands are not.

                                  Table 6--Areas Excluded From Critical Habitat Designation by Critical Habitat Unit *
--------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
                                                        Certificates of      Conservation         CCAA and CE         Tribal \c\       Total exclusions
                                                        inclusion (CI)     easement (CE)\b\         overlap      ---------------------------------------
      Critical habitat unit            Occupied?         under CCAA\a\   ----------------------------------------
                                                     --------------------                                           Acres   Hectares    Acres   Hectares
                                                        Acres   Hectares    Acres   Hectares    Acres   Hectares
--------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
Monticello-Dove Creek............  Yes..............  ........  ........     5,482     2,218  ........  ........  ........  ........     5,482     2,218
                                   No...............  ........  ........       469       190  ........  ........  ........  ........       469       190
Pi[ntilde]on Mesa................  Yes..............     8,512     3,445    15,317     6,199     7,971     3,226  ........  ........    15,858     6,417
                                   No...............     4,619     1,869    21,876     8,853     4,218     1,707  ........  ........    22,277     9,015
San Miguel Basin.................  Yes..............    13,694     5,542     6,961     2,817       420       170  ........  ........    20,235     8,189
                                   No...............  ........  ........     1,110       449  ........  ........  ........  ........     1,111       450
Cerro Summit-Cimaron-Sims Mesa...  Yes..............  ........  ........     3,484     1,410  ........  ........  ........  ........     3,485     1,410
                                   No...............  ........  ........       511       207  ........  ........  ........  ........       511       207
Crawford.........................  Yes..............     1,316       533     2,005       811       938       380  ........  ........     2,383       964
                                   No...............     2,605     1,054     8,514     3,445        50        20  ........  ........    11,070     4,480
Gunnison Basin...................  Yes..............    49,087    19,865    40,769    16,499    10,564     4,275    11,966     4,842    91,258    36,931
                                   No...............     1,323       535    15,539     6,288       303       123       761       308    17,320     7,009
All Units........................  Yes..............    72,609    29,384    74,018    29,954    19,894     8,051    11,966     4,842   138,702    56,131
                                   No...............     8,547     3,459    48,019    19,433     4,570     1,850       761       308    52,758    21,350
                                                     ---------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
    Total........................  .................    81,156    32,843   122,037    49,387    24,464     9,900    12,727     5,150   191,460    77,481
--------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
* Numbers may not sum due to rounding and mapping artifacts
\a\ CCAA: Completed Certificates of Inclusion (CIs) under the Candidate Conservation Agreement with Assurances; excluded acres are reflected in the
  final critical habitat designation acreage (see Final Critical Habitat Designation)
\b\ CE: perpetual conservation easements; excluded acres are reflected in the final critical habitat designation acreage (see Final Critical Habitat
  Designation)
\c\ Tribal SMP: Ute Mountain Ute Tribe's Species Management Plan for Pinecrest Ranch; excluded acres are reflected in the final critical habitat
  designation acreage (see Final Critical Habitat Designation)


                             Table 7--Critical Habitat Before and After Exclusions *
----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
                                                  Critical habitat         Exclusions         Critical habitat
                                                  before exclusions  ----------------------   after exclusions
     Critical habitat unit         Occupied?   ----------------------                      ---------------------
                                                  Acres     Hectares    Acres     Hectares    Acres     Hectares
----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
Monticello-Dove Creek.........  Yes...........    112,543     45,544      5,482      2,218    107,061     43,326

[[Page 69347]]

 
                                No............    236,409     95,671        469        190    235,940     95,481
Pi[ntilde]on Mesa.............  Yes...........     44,678     18,081     15,858      6,417     28,820     11,663
                                No............    201,249     81,443     22,277      9,015    178,972     72,424
San Miguel Basin..............  Yes...........    101,750     16,805     20,235      8,189     81,514     32,988
                                No............     41,526     41,177      1,111        450     40,414     16,355
Cerro Summit-Cimarron-Sims      Yes...........     37,161     15,039      3,485      1,410     33,675     13,628
 Mesa.
                                No............     19,380      7,843        511        207     18,869      7,636
Crawford......................  Yes...........     35,015     14,170      2,383        964     32,632     13,206
                                No............     62,109     25,134     11,070      4,480     51,039     20,655
Gunnison Basin................  Yes...........    592,168    239,600     91,258     36,931    500,909    202,711
                                No............    137,027     55,453     17,320      7,009    119,707     48,444
All Units.....................  Yes...........    923,314    373,610    138,702     56,131    784,611    317,521
                                No............    697,700    282,349     52,758     21,350    644,940    260,994
                                               -----------------------------------------------------------------
    Totals....................  ..............  1,621,014    655,959    191,460     77,481  1,429,551    578,515
----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
\*\ Numbers may not sum due to rounding and mapping artifacts.

Exclusions Based on Economic Impacts

    Under section 4(b)(2) of the Act, we consider the economic impacts 
of specifying any particular area as critical habitat. In order to 
consider economic impacts, we prepared a draft economic analysis (DEA) 
of the proposed critical habitat designation and related factors 
(Industrial Economics, Inc. (IEc) 2013, entire). The draft analysis, 
dated August 27, 2013, was made available for public review from 
September 19, 2013, through October 19, 2013 (78 FR 57604), and from 
November 4, 2013, through December 2, 2013 (78 FR 65936). Following the 
close of the comment periods, a final analysis (dated November 7, 2014) 
of the potential economic effects of the designation was developed 
taking into consideration the public comments and any new information 
received (Industrial Economics, Inc. (IEc) 2014, entire).
    The intent of the final economic analysis (FEA) is to quantify the 
economic impacts of all potential conservation efforts for Gunnison 
sage-grouse; some of these costs will likely be incurred regardless of 
whether we designate critical habitat (baseline). The economic impact 
of the final critical habitat designation is analyzed by comparing 
scenarios both ``with critical habitat'' and ``without critical 
habitat.'' The ``without critical habitat'' scenario represents the 
baseline for the analysis, considering protections already in place for 
the species (e.g., under the Federal listing and other Federal, State, 
and local regulations). The baseline, therefore, represents the costs 
incurred regardless of whether critical habitat is designated. The 
``with critical habitat'' scenario describes the incremental impacts 
associated specifically with the designation of critical habitat for 
the species. The incremental conservation efforts and associated 
impacts are those not expected to occur absent the designation of 
critical habitat for the species. In other words, the incremental costs 
are those attributable solely to the designation of critical habitat 
above and beyond the baseline costs; these are the costs we consider in 
the final designation of critical habitat. The analysis looks at 
baseline impacts incurred due to the listing of the species, and 
forecasts both baseline and incremental impacts likely to occur with 
the designation of critical habitat. We note that on August 28, 2013 
the Service finalized revisions to its regulations for impact analyses 
of critical habitat (78 FR 53058) to clarify that it is appropriate to 
consider the impacts of designation on an incremental basis 
notwithstanding the Tenth Circuit's decision in New Mexico Cattle 
Growers Ass'n v. FWS, 248 F.3d 1277 (10th Cir. 2001) (See 78 FR 57604, 
57607 (September 19, 2013) for additional discussion regarding this 
subject). As the economic analysis process for this critical habitat 
rule was underway prior to the revision of the regulation, our FEA 
analyzes both incremental and baseline costs, however, we are only 
required to consider incremental costs based on the revised regulation.
    The FEA also addresses how potential economic impacts are likely to 
be distributed, including an assessment of any local or regional 
impacts of habitat conservation and the potential effects of 
conservation activities on government agencies, private businesses, and 
individuals. The FEA measures lost economic efficiency associated with 
livestock grazing, agriculture and water management, mineral and fossil 
fuel extraction, residential and related development, including power 
infrastructure; renewable energy development; recreation; and 
transportation. Decisionmakers can use this information to assess 
whether the effects of the designation might unduly burden a particular 
group or economic sector. Finally, the FEA considers those costs that 
may occur in the 20 years following the designation of critical 
habitat, which was determined to be the appropriate period for analysis 
because limited planning information was available for most activities 
to forecast activity levels for projects beyond a 20-year timeframe. 
The FEA quantifies economic impacts of Gunnison sage-grouse 
conservation efforts associated with the above economic activities.
    The FEA forecasted baseline impacts of $48 million (present value 
over 20 years), discounted at seven percent, or $65 million (present 
value over 20 years), discounted at three percent. Annualized baseline 
impacts were forecast to be $4.3 million at a seven percent rate, or 
$4.2 million at a three percent discount rate. Quantified incremental 
impacts from the critical habitat designation alone were $6.9 million 
(present value over 20 years), assuming a seven percent discount rate. 
Assuming a social rate of time preference of three percent, incremental 
impacts were $8.8 million (present value over 20 years). Annualized 
incremental impacts of the critical habitat designation were forecast 
to be $610,000 at a seven percent discount rate, or $580,000 at a three 
percent discount rate (Industrial Economics, Inc. 2014, p. ES-2). 
Forecast baseline impacts were greatest in the Gunnison

[[Page 69348]]

Basin unit. Forecast incremental impacts were greatest in the 
Monticello-Dove Creek unit, followed by the Gunnison Basin unit. 
Forecast baseline and incremental impacts on specific economic 
activities were greatest in the electric power infrastructure category, 
followed by transportation (Industrial Economics, Inc. 2014, pp. ES-5 
to ES-7). The economic analysis was completed before our removal of the 
Poncha Pass unit from our final designation and before our removal of 
the CCAA, CE, and Tribal exclusions included here. Since the 
designation is now 274,676 ac (111,160 ha) smaller, the overall 
economic impact would likely be an even smaller amount than listed 
above.
    Our economic analysis did not identify any costs that are 
concentrated in any geographic area or sector likely to result from the 
designation. Consequently, the Secretary is not exercising her 
discretion to exclude any areas from this designation of critical 
habitat for the Gunnison sage-grouse based on economic impacts.
    A copy of the FEA with supporting documents may be obtained by 
contacting the Western Colorado Field Office (see ADDRESSES) or by 
downloading from the Internet at http://www.regulations.gov or at 
http://www.fws.gov/mountain-prairie/species/birds/gunnisonsagegrouse/.

Exclusions Based on National Security Impacts

    Under section 4(b)(2) of the Act, we consider whether there are 
lands owned or managed by the Department of Defense where a national 
security impact might exist. In preparing this final rule, we have 
determined that no lands within the critical habitat designation for 
Gunnison sage-grouse are owned or managed by the Department of Defense 
or Department of Homeland Security, and, therefore, we anticipate no 
impact on national security. Consequently, the Secretary is not 
exercising her discretion to exclude any areas from this final 
designation based on impacts on national security.

Exclusions Based on Other Relevant Impacts

    Under section 4(b)(2) of the Act, we consider any other relevant 
impacts, in addition to economic impacts and impacts on national 
security. We consider a number of factors, including whether the 
landowners have developed any HCPs or other management 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 tribal interests and issues, and consider the 
government-to-government relationship of the United States with tribal 
entities. We also consider any social impacts that might occur because 
of the designation.

Land and Resource Management Plans, Conservation Plans, or Agreements 
Based on Conservation Partnerships

    We acknowledge and commend landowners who have made significant 
commitments to manage their lands in a manner that is compatible with 
the conservation of Gunnison sage-grouse. Multiple partners including 
private citizens, nongovernmental organizations, Tribes, and Tribal, 
State, and Federal agencies are engaged in conservation efforts across 
the range of Gunnison sage-grouse. Numerous conservation actions have 
been implemented for Gunnison sage-grouse, and these efforts have 
provided and will continue to provide conservation benefit to the 
species (see a full description of conservation efforts in the final 
listing rule published elsewhere in today's Federal Register). In the 
proposed rule to designate critical habitat for Gunnison sage-grouse 
(78 FR 2540), we requested input from the public, especially private 
landowners, as to whether or not the Secretary should exclude from the 
designation under section 4(b)(2) of the Act lands protected, at 
varying levels, under the Gunnison sage-grouse CCAA, CEs, or other 
management with conservation measures applicable to Gunnison sage-
grouse.
    We generally consider a current land management or conservation 
plan (HCPs as well as other types) to provide adequate management or 
protection if it meets the following criteria:
    (1) The plan is complete and provides a conservation benefit for 
the species and its habitat;
    (2) There is a reasonable expectation that the conservation 
management strategies and actions will be implemented for the 
foreseeable future, based on past practices, written guidance, or 
regulations; and
    (3) The plan provides conservation strategies and measures 
consistent with currently accepted principles of conservation biology.
    Based on the following evaluation of conservation plans and 
agreements, we are excluding a total of 191,460 ac (77,481 ha) of 
private land from the critical habitat designation for Gunnison sage-
grouse, including 122,037 ac (49,387 ha) of land under permanent CE; 
81,156 ac (32,843 ha) of lands with completed CIs under the CCAA (of 
which 24,464 ac (9,900 ha) overlaps with CEs); and 12,727 ac (5,150 ha) 
of private lands owned by the Ute Mountain Ute Tribe under restricted 
fee status that are subject to a species' conservation plan (refer to 
our final rule to list Gunnison sage-grouse, published elsewhere in 
today's Federal Register, for a detailed account of these programs). We 
hereby exclude such properties from the critical habitat designation. 
The take prohibitions of section 9(a)(2) of the Act (i.e., related to 
the take of listed species) still apply to projects and activities on 
lands excluded from critical habitat designation, unless they are 
specifically excepted under section 4(d) of the Act.

Gunnison Sage-Grouse CCAA

    In April 2005, the Colorado Division of Wildlife (CDOW, now called 
Colorado Parks and Wildlife (CPW)) applied to the Service for an 
Enhancement of Survival Permit for the Gunnison sage-grouse pursuant to 
section 10(a)(1)(A) of the Act. The permit application included a 
proposed Candidate Conservation Agreement with Assurances (CCAA) 
between CPW and the Service. The standard that a CCAA must meet is that 
the ``benefits of the conservation measures implemented by a property 
owner under a CCAA, when combined with those benefits that would be 
achieved if it is assumed that conservation measures were also to be 
implemented on other necessary properties, would preclude or remove any 
need to list the species'' (64 FR 32726, June 17, 1999). A detailed 
account of the CCAA is provided in our final rule to list Gunnison 
sage-grouse, published elsewhere in today's Federal Register (see 
Related Conservation Programs and Efforts in that document).
    The goal of the CCAA is to reduce threats to the Gunnison sage-
grouse and help provide for secure, self-sustaining local populations 
by enrolling, protecting, maintaining, and enhancing or restoring 
necessary non-federally owned Colorado habitats of Gunnison sage-
grouse. Landowners with eligible property in southwestern Colorado who 
wish to participate can voluntarily sign up under the CCAA and 
associated permit through a CI in which they agree to implement habitat 
protection or enhancement measures on their lands. Eligible lands 
include non-Federal lands in Colorado within the current range of 
Gunnison sage-grouse where occupied, vacant/unknown, or potentially 
suitable habitats occur, as mapped and identified in the RCP. Except 
for properties recently enrolled, all properties have been monitored 
since enrollment using standardized vegetation transects and rangeland

[[Page 69349]]

health assessments and, despite recent drought conditions and existing 
land uses, no significant deviations from baseline habitat conditions 
have been observed. All CI properties were found to have Gunnison sage-
grouse habitat, and in all cases, baseline habitat conditions on CI 
properties met the tier 1 standard, indicating no habitat manipulations 
were needed to support Gunnison sage-grouse. All enrolled properties 
continue to be in compliance with the terms of their CI's (CPW 2014a, 
p. 1).
    The CCAA promotes the conservation of Gunnison sage-grouse on 
significant portions of private lands in the Gunnison Basin, Crawford, 
San Miguel, and Pi[ntilde]on Mesa populations (Table 5). In these 
areas, threats to Gunnison sage-grouse are reduced and habitats are 
protected, maintained, enhanced or restored as a result of 
participation in the CCAA. In particular, private land uses including 
livestock grazing and agricultural production are managed to be 
consistent with the needs of Gunnison sage-grouse and the species' 
conservation, using conservation strategies and measures consistent 
with currently accepted principles of conservation biology. As 
described in our final listing rule for Gunnison sage-grouse (published 
elsewhere in today's Federal Register), the agreement is complete and 
provides a conservation benefit for the species and its habitat, 
particularly in regard to its reduction of habitat-related impacts due 
to existing land uses on private lands.
    Although property enrollment in the CCAA can be withdrawn by the 
current or a future owner at any time, we expect that properties will 
remain enrolled in the CCAA for the term of the agreement for the 
following reasons: (1) Since CPW began issuing CI's to landowners in 
2009, no property has been withdrawn from the CCAA; (2) now that the 
species has been listed, there is more incentive for landowners to 
continue to participate in the CCAA, in order to receive the assurances 
provided in the CCAA; (3) the majority of the participating landowners 
have owned their ranches for generations, and we have no reason to 
believe they intend to do anything other than maintain the land in 
ranching or agriculture in the future.
    Lands enrolled in the CCAA meet the definition of critical habitat 
and, thus, their designation would benefit Gunnison sage-grouse. The 
benefits of critical habitat include public awareness of Gunnison sage-
grouse presence and the importance of habitat protection, and in cases 
where a Federal nexus exists, increased habitat protection for Gunnison 
sage-grouse due to the protection from adverse modification or 
destruction of critical habitat. Since the lands enrolled in the CCAA 
are private lands, the regulatory benefit from the protection from 
adverse modification or destruction would likely be minimal due to the 
lack of a Federal nexus for many land uses. Landowners voluntarily 
enrolled and are working with CPW to manage their lands in a manner 
consistent with sage-grouse conservation. Because of this, they are 
already aware of sage-grouse presence and the importance of habitat 
protection, so any additional educational benefits provided by 
designation of critical habitat, if any, are also very minimal.
    The benefits of excluding lands with CCAAs that have been permitted 
under section 10 of the Act from critical habitat designation include 
relieving landowners, communities, and counties of any potential 
additional regulatory burden that might be imposed as a result of the 
critical habitat designation. A related benefit of exclusion is the 
unhindered, continued ability to maintain existing partnerships and 
seek new partnerships with potential plan participants, including 
States, counties, local jurisdictions, conservation organizations, and 
private landowners. Together, these entities can implement conservation 
actions that the Services would be unable to accomplish without private 
landowners. These partnerships can lead to additional CCAAs in the 
future.
    We find that the benefits of excluding these lands from the 
critical habitat designation outweigh the benefits of their inclusion. 
Exclusion of these properties continues and strengthens existing 
partnerships, particularly the important relationship between the 
Service and CPW. The CCAA incentivizes the conservation of Gunnison 
sage-grouse and important seasonal habitats on private lands that might 
otherwise not be managed consistent with the needs of the species. We 
recognize the value of working lands in rural areas and the open spaces 
they provide Gunnison sage-grouse and other species. Exclusion of these 
properties from critical habitat designation will encourage continued 
participation in the CCAA and its partnership and contribute to the 
sustainability of working lands managed for the benefit of Gunnison 
sage-grouse. Exclusion of these properties will not result in the 
extinction of Gunnison sage-grouse because they are managed in a manner 
compatible with Gunnison sage-grouse conservation. Therefore, we are 
excluding 81,156 ac (32,843 ha) of lands with completed CIs under the 
CCAA on or before the effective date of this rule (Table 6).

Conservation Easement Lands

    Since the time of our proposed rule, we have received new 
information on conservation easements across the range of Gunnison 
sage-grouse (Lohr and Gray 2013, entire). In particular, all the 
conservation easements across the range of Gunnison sage-grouse have 
been identified and we better understand that these permanent 
conservation easements cannot be subdivided (Lohr and Gray 2013, p. 1 
and spatial data). This information has led us to believe that these 
permanent conservation easements should be considered complete and they 
provide a conservation benefit to the species and its habitat.
    Conservation easements (CEs) are voluntary legal agreements between 
a landowner and a land trust or government agency that permanently 
limit or restrict land uses on identified parcels for conservation 
values and purposes. CEs require that individual parcels be owned and 
conveyed as single units in perpetuity, thereby ensuring that there is 
a reasonable expectation that the conservation management strategies 
and actions will be implemented for the foreseeable future and they 
will not be subdivided for development in the future. Conservation 
easements also restrict land uses by defining specific areas for 
residential or agricultural development, including roads and driveways, 
and may include other parameters for land management practices to 
achieve conservation values (Lohr and Gray 2013, p. 2). The parameters 
for these restrictions allow for limited development while still 
conserving open space and managing private development in a way that 
provides benefits for the conservation of Gunnison sage-grouse habitat. 
Therefore, we consider CEs as an effective regulatory tool to prevent 
long-term or permanent habitat loss. In the context of potential 
threats to Gunnison sage-grouse, CEs and the protections they afford 
are most relevant to the threat of residential and human development. 
Protecting lands under permanent conservation easements provides 
conservation strategies and measures consistent with the needs of 
Gunnison sage-grouse. Lands that are able to be subdivided indefinitely 
fragment the open landscapes needed by the species. Lands under 
easement managed to achieve conservation values will provide more 
suitable habitat for the life history processes of Gunnison

[[Page 69350]]

sage-grouse, including connectivity and seasonal habitat matrices.
    Since our publication of the proposed critical habitat rule, we 
have received a summary of the estimated amount of lands under 
conservation easement for occupied and unoccupied Gunnison sage-grouse 
habitat in Colorado and Utah (Lohr and Gray 2013, entire). Permanent 
conservation easements across Gunnison sage-grouse range are held by 
nongovernmental organizations and land trusts (The Nature Conservancy, 
Colorado Cattlemen's Agricultural Land Trust, and others), State 
agencies (CPW, UDWR), and Federal agencies (NRCS, NPS, and BLM). Some 
CEs include conservation measures specific to Gunnison sage-grouse, 
while many are directed at other species, such as big game (GSRSC 2005, 
pp. 59-103), but still indirectly provide benefits to Gunnison sage-
grouse by preventing habitat loss and fragmentation. Some of these 
properties are also enrolled in other programs to benefit sage-grouse 
conservation, including the CCAA and NRCS's Sage Grouse Initiative. For 
additional information on CEs across the range of Gunnison sage-grouse, 
please see our final rule to list the species, published elsewhere in 
today's Federal Register (see Other Regulatory Mechanisms: Conservation 
Easements in that document).
    We are aware of approximately 122,037 ac (49,387 ha) under 
permanent CE in Gunnison sage-grouse habitat (Table 6) as of August 28, 
2013, according to Lohr and Gray (2013). Conservation easements occur 
in all six critical habitat units. These lands meet the definition of 
critical habitat and, thus, their designation would benefit Gunnison 
sage-grouse. The benefits of critical habitat include public awareness 
of Gunnison sage-grouse presence and the importance of habitat 
protection, and in cases where a Federal nexus exists, increased 
habitat protection for Gunnison sage-grouse due to the protection from 
adverse modification or destruction of critical habitat. Since the 
lands enrolled in the CEs are private lands, the regulatory benefit 
from the protection from adverse modification or destruction would 
likely be minimal due to the lack of a Federal nexus for many land 
uses. Educational and public awareness benefits would also be very 
minimal, as it is expected that a landowner who has put their property 
under permanent easement is already aware of the importance of habitat 
protection for Gunnison sage-grouse.
    Permanent conservation easements provide substantial benefit to 
Gunnison sage-grouse and its habitat by preventing long-term or 
permanent habitat loss and fragmentation due to subdivision and 
development. Exclusion of these properties from critical habitat 
designation will strengthen our partnership with the organizations 
currently holding conservation easements and those advocating for 
additional conservation easements in the species' range. Exclusion of 
these properties will also contribute to the protection of Gunnison 
sage-grouse habitat by reducing habitat fragmentation and development 
that is not consistent with the species' conservation. Exclusion of 
these properties from critical habitat designation acknowledges the 
value of these lands and fosters conservation efforts and partnerships. 
We find that the benefits of excluding these lands from the critical 
habitat designation outweigh the benefits of their inclusion. Exclusion 
of these properties will not result in the extinction of Gunnison sage-
grouse because they are managed in a manner compatible with Gunnison 
sage-grouse conservation. Lands that are able to be subdivided 
indefinitely fragment the open landscapes needed by the species. Lands 
not subdivided will provide more suitable habitat for the life history 
processes of Gunnison sage-grouse, including connectivity and seasonal 
habitat matrices. Therefore, we are excluding 122,037 ac (49,387 ha) of 
lands under CE as of August 28, 2013 across the range of Gunnison sage-
grouse (Table 6).

Ute Mountain Ute Tribe Pinecrest Ranch Species Management Plan

    Approximately 12,727 ac (5,150 ha) of Gunnison sage-grouse habitat 
on Pinecrest Ranch are owned by the Ute Mountain Ute Tribe (Tribe or 
UMUT) under restricted fee status (classified in this rule as private 
land). The Pinecrest Ranch includes a total of 18,749 ac in the 
Gunnison Basin population area west of Gunnison, Colorado. The Tribe 
uses the ranch primarily for livestock grazing and for important 
traditional and cultural purposes. In March 2014, the Tribe finalized a 
Species Management Plan (SMP) to promote the conservation of Gunnison 
sage-grouse and its habitat on the Pinecrest Ranch while maintaining a 
sustainable agricultural operation and other traditional uses of the 
property (UMUT 2014, entire). See our September 19, 2013 Federal 
Register notice discussing the SMP (78 FR 57611). The plan is complete 
and provides a conservation benefit for the species and its habitat. 
The SMP includes management actions and considerations that will 
benefit Gunnison sage-grouse including, but not limited to, continued 
predator control, seasonal restrictions for construction and 
development activities, road restrictions and closures, wildlife-
friendly fencing, outreach and education, and sustainable grazing 
practices (UMUT 2014, pp. 4-11). The NRCS assisted with the SMP by 
evaluating Pinecrest Ranch and developing a conservation plan (NRCS 
2014, entire) to ensure that the plan provides conservation strategies 
and measures consistent with currently accepted principles of 
conservation biology. The NRCS's evaluation indicated that past and 
ongoing management of Pinecrest Ranch by the Tribe has provided good 
habitat for Gunnison sage-grouse (based on vegetation measurements) and 
a variety of other wildlife species (NRCS 2014, pp. 4-5). This suggests 
a reasonable expectation that the conservation management strategies 
and actions will be implemented for the foreseeable future, based on 
past practices, and the formalized plan. The NRCS also noted that 
overall limited human activity at the ranch has likely been beneficial 
to wildlife in general (NRCS 2014, p. 5). The above information 
indicates that current and future Tribal management of the Pinecrest 
Ranch is consistent with the needs and conservation of Gunnison sage-
grouse (UMUT 2014, entire). The Service also met with the Tribe 
regarding the development of the plan (UMUT 2014, p. 2). This plan is 
also evaluated in our final rule to list Gunnison sage-grouse, 
published elsewhere in today's Federal Register (see Tribal Laws and 
Management).
    The lands subject to the SMP meet the definition of critical 
habitat and, thus, their designation would provide some benefit to 
Gunnison sage-grouse. The benefits of critical habitat include public 
awareness of Gunnison sage-grouse presence and the importance of 
habitat protection, and in cases where a Federal nexus exists, 
increased habitat protection for Gunnison sage-grouse due to the 
protection from adverse modification or destruction of critical 
habitat. Since the lands owned by the tribe are classified as private 
lands, the regulatory benefit from the protection from adverse 
modification or destruction would likely be minimal due to the lack of 
a Federal nexus for many land uses. The Tribe finalized a SMP to 
promote the conservation of Gunnison sage-grouse and its habitat on the 
Pinecrest Ranch. Because of this, they are already aware of sage-grouse 
presence and the importance of habitat protection, so any additional 
educational benefits provided by

[[Page 69351]]

designation of critical habitat, if any, are also very minimal.
    We find that the benefits of excluding these lands from the 
critical habitat designation outweigh the benefits of their inclusion. 
The SMP will promote the conservation of Gunnison sage-grouse and its 
habitat. We recognize the value of working lands in rural areas and the 
open spaces they provide Gunnison sage-grouse and other species. 
Exclusion of these properties from critical habitat designation 
contributes to the sustainability of working lands managed for the 
benefit of Gunnison sage-grouse. Exclusion of these properties from 
critical habitat designation acknowledges the government-to-government 
relationship between the United States and Tribes, acknowledges the 
value of Pinecrest Ranch to Gunnison sage-grouse, and fosters 
conservation efforts and partnerships. Exclusion of these lands will 
not result in the extinction of Gunnison sage-grouse. Therefore, we are 
excluding 12,727 ac (5,150 ha) of the Ute Mountain Ute Pinecrest Ranch 
from the critical habitat designation.

Required Determinations

Regulatory Planning and Review (Executive Orders 12866 and 13563)

    Executive Order 12866 provides that the Office of Information and 
Regulatory Affairs (OIRA) in the Office of Management and Budget will 
review all significant rules. OIRA has determined that this rule is 
significant.
    Executive Order 13563 reaffirms the principles of E.O. 12866 while 
calling for improvements in the nation's regulatory system to promote 
predictability, to reduce uncertainty, and to use the best, most 
innovative, and least burdensome tools for achieving regulatory ends. 
The executive order directs agencies to consider regulatory approaches 
that reduce burdens and maintain flexibility and freedom of choice for 
the public where these approaches are relevant, feasible, and 
consistent with regulatory objectives. E.O. 13563 emphasizes further 
that regulations must be based on the best available science and that 
the rulemaking process must allow for public participation and an open 
exchange of ideas. We have developed this rule in a manner consistent 
with these requirements.

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

    Under the Regulatory Flexibility Act (RFA; 5 U.S.C. 601 et seq.) as 
amended by the Small Business Regulatory Enforcement Fairness Act 
(SBREFA) of 1996 (5 U.S.C. 801 et seq.), whenever an agency must 
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 effects of the rule on small entities 
(small businesses, small organizations, and small government 
jurisdictions). However, no regulatory flexibility analysis is required 
if the head of the agency certifies the rule will not have a 
significant economic impact on a substantial number of small entities. 
The SBREFA amended the RFA to require Federal agencies to provide a 
certification statement of the factual basis for certifying that the 
rule will not have a significant economic impact on a substantial 
number of small entities. In this final rule, we are certifying that 
the critical habitat designation for Gunnison sage-grouse will not have 
a significant economic impact on a substantial number of small 
entities. The following discussion explains our rationale.
    According to the Small Business Administration, small entities 
include small organizations such as independent nonprofit 
organizations; small governmental jurisdictions, including school 
boards and city and town governments that serve fewer than 50,000 
residents; as well as small businesses (13 CFR 121.201). Small 
businesses include such businesses as 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 on these small entities are significant, we consider 
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.
    Importantly, the incremental impacts of a rule must be both 
significant and substantial to prevent certification of the rule under 
the RFA and to require the preparation of an initial regulatory 
flexibility analysis. If a substantial number of small entities are 
affected by the proposed critical habitat designation, but the per-
entity economic impact is not significant, the Service may certify. 
Likewise, if the per-entity economic impact is likely to be 
significant, but the number of affected entities is not substantial, 
the Service may also certify.
    The Service's current understanding of recent case law is that 
Federal agencies are only required to evaluate the potential impacts of 
rulemaking on those entities directly regulated by the rulemaking; 
therefore, they are not required to evaluate the potential impacts to 
those entities not directly regulated. The designation of critical 
habitat for an endangered or threatened species only has a regulatory 
effect where a Federal action agency is involved in a particular action 
that may affect the designated critical habitat. Under these 
circumstances, only the Federal action agency is directly regulated by 
the designation, and, therefore, consistent with the Service's current 
interpretation of RFA and recent case law, the Service may limit its 
evaluation of the potential impacts to those identified for Federal 
action agencies. Under this interpretation, there is no requirement 
under the RFA to evaluate the potential impacts to entities not 
directly regulated, such as small businesses. However, Executive Orders 
12866 and 13563 direct Federal agencies to assess costs and benefits of 
available regulatory alternatives in quantitative (to the extent 
feasible) and qualitative terms. Consequently, it is the current 
practice of the Service to assess to the extent practicable these 
potential impacts if sufficient data are available, whether or not this 
analysis is considered by the Service to be strictly required by the 
RFA. In other words, while the effects analysis required under the RFA 
is limited to entities directly regulated by the rulemaking, the 
effects analysis under the Act, consistent with the EO regulatory 
analysis requirements, can take into consideration impacts to both 
directly and indirectly impacted entities, where practicable and 
reasonable.
    In conclusion, we believe that, based on our interpretation of 
directly regulated entities under the RFA and relevant case law, this 
designation of critical habitat will only directly regulate Federal 
agencies, which are not by definition small business entities. And as 
such, we certify that this designation of critical habitat will not 
have a significant economic impact on a substantial number of small 
business entities. Therefore, an initial regulatory flexibility 
analysis is not required. However, though not necessarily required by 
the RFA, in our final economic analysis for this rule we considered and 
evaluated the potential

[[Page 69352]]

effects to third parties that may be involved with consultations with 
Federal action agencies related to this action.
    Designation of critical habitat only affects activities authorized, 
funded, or carried out by Federal agencies. Some kinds of activities 
are unlikely to have any Federal involvement and so will not be 
affected by critical habitat designation. In areas where the species is 
present, Federal agencies already are required to consult with us under 
section 7 of the Act on activities they authorize, fund, or carry out 
that may affect the Gunnison sage-grouse. Federal agencies also must 
consult with us if their activities may affect critical habitat. 
Designation of critical habitat could result in an additional economic 
impact on small entities due to the potential requirement for Federal 
agencies to consult on certain Federal actions (see Application of the 
``Adverse Modification Standard'' section).
    In our final economic analysis of the critical habitat designation, 
we evaluated the potential economic effects on small business entities 
resulting from conservation actions related to the listing of the 
Gunnison sage-grouse and the designation of critical habitat. The 
analysis is based on the estimated impacts associated with the 
rulemaking as described in Chapters 3 through 8 and Appendix A of the 
analysis, and evaluates the potential for economic impacts related to: 
(1) Livestock grazing; (2) agriculture and water management; (3) 
mineral and fossil fuel extraction; (4) residential and related 
development; (5) electric power infrastructure; (6) renewable energy 
development; (7) recreation; (8) and transportation projects. The 
analysis considered each activity for which third parties may incur 
incremental costs associated with section 7 consultation. Incremental 
costs due to project modification and administrative impacts are 
forecast for small business entities in livestock grazing (63 
entities), water management (1 entity), mineral and fossil fuel 
extraction (10 entities), residential and related development (3 
entities), electric power infrastructure (unknown number of entities), 
transportation (5 entities), and renewable energy (1 entity). 
Incremental costs forecast in each of these categories were under 2 
percent of annual revenues for respective business entities; in most 
categories, incremental costs were less than 1 percent of annual 
revenues for respective business entities (Industrial Economics, Inc. 
2014, p. A-12).
    In summary, we considered whether this designation would result in 
a significant economic effect on a substantial number of small 
entities. Based on the above reasoning and currently available 
information, we concluded that this rule would not result in a 
significant economic impact on a substantial number of small entities. 
Therefore, we are certifying that the designation of critical habitat 
for Gunnison sage-grouse will not have a significant economic impact on 
a substantial number of small entities, and a regulatory flexibility 
analysis is not required.

Energy Supply, Distribution, or Use--Executive Order 13211

    Executive Order 13211 (Actions Concerning Regulations That 
Significantly Affect Energy Supply, Distribution, or Use) requires 
agencies to prepare Statements of Energy Effects when undertaking 
certain actions. OMB has provided guidance for implementing this 
Executive Order that outlines nine outcomes that may constitute ``a 
significant adverse effect'' when compared to not taking the regulatory 
action under consideration.
    In our final economic analysis, incremental effects of the critical 
habitat designation were assumed to occur for energy projects in 
unoccupied sage-grouse habitat. Approximately 31 producing or newly 
permitted oil and gas wells are located within unoccupied portions of 
the critical habitat designation. Approximately 28,000 wells in the 
State of Colorado produced 1.3 billion Mcf-equivalents in 2005 (an Mcf-
equivalent is the total heat value of natural gas and oil expressed as 
a volume of natural gas). The number of wells within the critical 
habitat designation, therefore, represents less than one percent of 
wells in the State. We do not anticipate that the designation of 
critical habitat will result in significant incremental impacts to the 
energy industry on a national scale (Industrial Economics, Inc. 2014, 
p. A-15). As such, the designation of critical habitat is not expected 
to significantly affect energy supplies, distribution, or use. 
Therefore, this action is not a significant energy action, and no 
Statement of Energy Effects is 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 
et seq.), we make the following findings:
    (1) 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, or 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; Aid to Families 
with Dependent Children 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 that receive 
Federal funding, assistance, or permits, or that otherwise require 
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 onto State governments.

[[Page 69353]]

    (2) We do not believe that this rule would significantly or 
uniquely affect small governments because only a small percentage of 
the total land ownership falls on small government lands such as those 
owned by the City of Gunnison and Gunnison County. Our economic 
analysis forecasted incremental impacts on five county governments 
associated with transportation and administrative costs. However, 
incremental costs were estimated to be less than 0.7 percent of annual 
revenues for those entities (Industrial Economics, Inc. 2014, p. A-9). 
Therefore, we do not expect that this rule would significantly or 
uniquely affect small governments because it would not produce a 
Federal mandate of $100 million or greater in any year, that is, it is 
not a ``significant regulatory action'' under the Unfunded Mandates 
Reform Act. Consequently, we do not believe that the critical habitat 
designation would significantly or uniquely affect small government 
entities. As such, a Small Government Agency Plan is not required.

Takings--Executive Order 12630

    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 Gunnison sage-grouse in a takings implications 
assessment. Critical habitat designation does not affect landowner 
actions that do not require Federal funding or permits, and the 
designation of critical habitat does not preclude the issuance of 
section 10(a)(1)(B) permits to private landowners should incidental 
take be anticipated from a particular action by a landowner. Based on 
the best available information, the takings implications assessment 
concludes that this designation of critical habitat for Gunnison sage-
grouse does not pose significant takings implications.

Federalism--Executive Order 13132

    In accordance with Executive Order 13132 (Federalism), this rule 
does not have significant Federalism effects. A Federalism assessment 
is not required. In keeping with Department of the Interior and 
Department of Commerce policy, we requested information from, and 
coordinated development of this critical habitat designation with 
appropriate State resource agencies in Colorado and Utah. We received 
comments from Colorado Parks and Wildlife and the Utah Division of 
Wildlife Resources and have addressed them in the Peer Review and 
Public Comments section of this rule, and throughout the rule as 
appropriate. From a federalism perspective, the designation of critical 
habitat directly affects only the responsibilities of Federal agencies. 
The Act imposes no other duties with respect to critical habitat, 
either for States and local governments, or for anyone else. As a 
result, the rule does not have substantial direct effects either on the 
States, or on the relationship between the national government and the 
States, or on the distribution of powers and responsibilities among the 
various levels of government. The designation may have some benefit to 
these governments because the areas that contain the features essential 
to the conservation of the species are more clearly defined, and the 
physical and biological features of the habitat necessary to the 
conservation of the species are specifically identified. This 
information does not alter where and what federally sponsored 
activities may occur. However, critical habitat may assist local 
governments in long-range planning because the designation highlights 
important habitat areas for a species.
    Where State and local governments require approval or authorization 
from a Federal agency for actions that may affect critical habitat, the 
Federal agency will be required to consult under section 7(a)(2). As a 
result, while non-Federal entities that receive Federal funding, 
assistance, or permits, or that otherwise require 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.

Civil Justice Reform--Executive Order 12988

    In accordance with Executive Order 12988 (Civil Justice Reform), 
the Office of the Solicitor has determined that the rule does not 
unduly burden the judicial system and that it meets the requirements of 
sections 3(a) and 3(b)(2) of the Order. We are designating critical 
habitat in accordance with the provisions of the Act. To assist the 
public in understanding the habitat needs of the species, the rule 
identifies the elements of physical or biological features essential to 
the conservation of the Gunnison sage-grouse. The designated areas of 
critical habitat are presented on maps, and the rule provides several 
options for the interested public to obtain more detailed location 
information, if desired.

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

    This rule does not contain any new collections of information that 
require approval by OMB under the Paperwork Reduction Act of 1995 (44 
U.S.C. 3501 et seq.). 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 (42 U.S.C. 4321 et seq.)

    It is our position that, outside the jurisdiction of the U.S. Court 
of Appeals for the Tenth Circuit, we do not need to prepare 
environmental analyses pursuant to the National Environmental Policy 
Act (NEPA; 42 U.S.C. 4321 et seq.) in connection with designating 
critical habitat under the Act. We published a notice outlining our 
reasons for this determination in the Federal Register on October 25, 
1983 (48 FR 49244). This position was upheld by the U.S. Court of 
Appeals for the Ninth Circuit (Douglas County v. Babbitt, 48 F.3d 1495 
(9th Cir. 1995), cert. denied 516 U.S. 1042 (1996)). However, when the 
range of the species includes States within the Tenth Circuit, such as 
that of Gunnison sage-grouse, under the Tenth Circuit ruling in Catron 
County Board of Commissioners v. U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, 75 
F.3d 1429 (10th Cir. 1996), we undertake a NEPA analysis for critical 
habitat designation and notify the public of the availability of the 
draft environmental assessment for a proposal when it is finished.
    We conducted the NEPA analysis, and a draft of the environmental 
assessment was made available for public comment from September 19, 
2013, through October 19, 2013 (78 FR 57604), and from November 4, 
2013, through December 2, 2013 (78 FR 65936). The final environmental 
assessment has been completed and is available for review with the 
publication of this final rule. The environmental assessment evaluated 
the effects of the No Action Alternative (no designation of critical 
habitat) and Proposed Action Alternative (designation of critical 
habitat) on the physical, biological, and human environment. Based on 
the environmental assessment, the Service found that no significant 
environmental impact would occur as a result of critical habitat 
designation for Gunnison sage-grouse. Therefore, an environmental 
impact statement is not

[[Page 69354]]

necessary for the designation of critical habitat for Gunnison sage-
grouse. You may obtain a copy of the final environmental assessment and 
the Service's Finding of No Significant Impact (FONSI) online at http://www.regulations.gov, by mail from the Western Colorado Field Office 
(see ADDRESSES), or by visiting our Web site at http://www.fws.gov/mountain-prairie/species/birds/gunnisonsagegrouse/.

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's manual at 512 DM 2, we readily acknowledge our 
responsibility to communicate meaningfully with recognized Federal 
Tribes on a government-to-government basis. In accordance with 
Secretarial Order 3206 of June 5, 1997 (American Indian Tribal Rights, 
Federal-Tribal Trust Responsibilities, and the Endangered Species Act), 
we readily acknowledge our responsibilities to work directly with 
tribes in developing programs for healthy ecosystems, to acknowledge 
that tribal lands are not subject to the same controls as Federal 
public lands, to remain sensitive to Indian culture, and to make 
information available to tribes.
    Our proposed critical habitat rule for Gunnison sage-grouse 
included approximately 5,150 ha (12,725 ac) of Gunnison sage-grouse 
habitat on Pinecrest Ranch owned by the Ute Mountain Ute Tribe (Tribe) 
under restricted fee status (classified in this rule as private land). 
As described above (see Exclusions based on Other Relevant Impacts), we 
have excluded this area from the final critical habitat designation 
because the benefits of exclusion outweigh the benefits of exclusion, 
and the exclusion will not result in extinction of the species.

References Cited

    A complete list of references cited in this rulemaking is available 
on the Internet at http://www.regulations.gov and upon request from the 
Western Colorado Field Office (see FOR FURTHER INFORMATION CONTACT).

Authors

    The primary authors of this package are the staff members of the 
Western Colorado Field Office.

List of Subjects in 50 CFR Part 17

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

Regulation Promulgation

    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; 1531-1544; 4201-4245; unless 
otherwise noted.


0
2. In Sec.  17.95, amend paragraph (b) by adding an entry for 
``Gunnison Sage-Grouse (Centrocercus minimus)'' after the entry for 
``Western Snowy Plover (Charadrius nivosus nivosus)--Pacific Coast 
Population'', to read as follows:


Sec.  17.95  Critical habitat--fish and wildlife.

* * * * *
    (b) Birds.
* * * * *
    Gunnison Sage-grouse (Centrocercus minimus)
    (1) Critical habitat units are depicted for Grand and San Juan 
Counties, Utah, and Delta, Dolores, Gunnison, Hinsdale, Mesa, Montrose, 
Ouray, Saguache, and San Miguel Counties, Colorado, on the maps below.
    (2) Within these areas, the primary constituent elements (PCEs) of 
the physical and biological features essential to the conservation of 
Gunnison sage-grouse consist of five components:
    (i) Landscape Specific Primary Constituent Element. Primary 
Constituent Element 1--Extensive sagebrush landscapes capable of 
supporting a population of Gunnison sage-grouse. In general, this 
includes areas with vegetation composed primarily of sagebrush plant 
communities (at least 25 percent of the land is dominated by sagebrush 
cover within a 0.9-mi (1.5-km) radius of any given location), of 
sufficient size and configuration to encompass all seasonal habitats 
for a given population of Gunnison sage-grouse, and facilitate 
movements within and among populations. These areas also occur wholly 
within the potential historical range of Gunnison sage-grouse.
    (ii) Seasonally Specific Primary Constituent Elements. (A) Primary 
Constituent Element 2--Breeding habitat composed of sagebrush plant 
communities that, in general, have the structural characteristics 
within the ranges described in the following table. Habitat structure 
values are average values over a project area. Breeding habitat 
includes lek, nesting, and early brood-rearing habitats used typically 
March 15 through July 15. Early brood-rearing habitat may include 
agricultural fields.

------------------------------------------------------------------------
          Vegetation variable                   Amount in  habitat
------------------------------------------------------------------------
Sagebrush Canopy.......................  10-25 percent.
Non-sagebrush Canopy *.................  5-15 percent.
Total Shrub Canopy.....................  15-40 percent.
Sagebrush Height.......................  9.8-19.7 in (25-50 cm).
Grass Cover............................  10-40 percent.
Forb Cover.............................  5-40 percent.
Grass Height...........................  3.9-5.9 in (10-15 cm).
Forb Height............................  2.0-5.9 in (5-15 cm).
------------------------------------------------------------------------
* Includes shrubs such as horsebrush (Tetradymia spp.), rabbitbrush
  (Chrysothamnus spp.), bitterbrush (Purshia spp.), snakeweed
  (Gutierrezia sarothrae), greasewood (Sarcobatus spp.), winterfat
  (Eurotia lanata), Gambel's oak (Quercus gambelii), snowberry
  (Symphoricarpos oreophilus), serviceberry (Amelanchier spp.), and
  chokecherry (Prunus virginiana).

    (B) Primary Constituent Element 3--Summer-late fall habitat 
composed of sagebrush plant communities that, in general, have the 
structural characteristics within the ranges described in the following 
table. Habitat structure values are average values over a project area. 
Summer-fall habitat includes sagebrush communities having the 
referenced habitat structure values, as well as agricultural fields and 
wet meadow or riparian habitat types. Wet meadows and riparian habitats 
are also included qualitatively under PCE 5 at paragraph (2)(ii)(D) of 
this entry.

------------------------------------------------------------------------
          Vegetation variable                   Amount in  habitat
------------------------------------------------------------------------
Sagebrush Canopy.......................  5-20 percent.
Non-sagebrush Canopy *.................  5-15 percent.
Total Shrub Canopy.....................  10-35 percent.
Sagebrush Height.......................  9.8-19.7 in (25-50 cm).
Grass Cover............................  10-35 percent.
Forb Cover.............................  5-35 percent.
Grass Height...........................  3.9-5.9 in (10-15 cm).
Forb Height............................  1.2-3.9 in (3-10 cm).
------------------------------------------------------------------------
* Includes shrubs such as horsebrush (Tetradymia spp.), rabbitbrush
  (Chrysothamnus spp.), bitterbrush (Purshia spp.), snakeweed
  (Gutierrezia sarothrae), greasewood (Sarcobatus spp.), winterfat
  (Eurotia lanata), Gambel's oak (Quercus gambelii), snowberry
  (Symphoricarpos oreophilus), serviceberry (Amelanchier spp.), and
  chokecherry (Prunus virginiana).

    (C) Primary Constituent Element 4-- Winter habitat composed of 
sagebrush

[[Page 69355]]

plant communities that, in general, have sagebrush canopy cover between 
30 to 40 percent and sagebrush height of 15.8 to 21.7 in (40 to 55 cm). 
These habitat structure values are average values over a project area. 
Winter habitat includes sagebrush areas within currently occupied 
habitat that are available (i.e., not covered by snow) to Gunnison 
sage-grouse during average winters.
    (D) Primary Constituent Element 5-- Alternative, mesic habitats 
used primarily in the summer-late fall season, such as riparian 
communities, springs, seeps, and mesic meadows.
    (3) Critical habitat for the Gunnison sage-grouse does not include 
manmade structures (such as buildings, airport runways, roads, and 
other paved areas) and the land on which they are located existing 
within the boundaries of designated critical habitat on December 22, 
2014.
    (4) Critical habitat map units. Data layers defining map units were 
created from a number of geospatial data, including: Polygons generated 
as part of the Gunnison sage-grouse Rangewide Conservation Plan, 
Southwest Regional Gap Analysis Project (SWReGAP) land cover data, 
National Agriculture Imagery Program (NAIP) aerial images, and USGS 7.5 
minute quadrangle maps. Critical habitat units were then mapped as 
shapefiles using Universal Transverse Mercator (UTM) Zone 13N 
coordinates.
    (i) The maps in this entry, as modified by any accompanying 
regulatory text, establish the boundaries of the critical habitat 
designation. Private land boundaries may not be exact due to mapping 
inconsistencies between land survey data, Geographic Information System 
(GIS) coordinates, and differing mapping layers provided.
    (ii) Private lands enrolled in the Gunnison Sage-Grouse 
Conservation Agreement with Assurances as of December 22, 2014, and 
those subject to a permanent conservation easement as of August 28, 
2013, or subject to the Ute Mountain Ute Tribe's Species Management 
Plan for Pinecrest Ranch on December 22, 2014, are excluded from 
designation pursuant to section 4(b)(2) of the Act, but adjacent lands 
are not.
    (iii) The coordinates or plot points or both on which each map is 
based are available to the public at the Service's internet site, 
(http://www.fws.gov/mountain-prairie/species/birds/gunnisonsagegrouse/
), http://www.regulations.gov at Docket No. FWS-R6-ES-2011-0111, and at 
the field office responsible for this designation. You may obtain field 
office location information by contacting one of the Service regional 
offices, the addresses of which are listed at 50 CFR 2.2.
    (5)  Note: Index map follows:

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[[Page 69356]]

[GRAPHIC] [TIFF OMITTED] TR20NO14.004


[[Page 69357]]


    (6) Unit 1: Monticello-Dove Creek: San Juan County, Utah, and 
Montrose, San Miguel, and Dolores Counties, Colorado.
    (i) General Description: 343,000 ac (138,807 ha); 24.0 percent of 
all critical habitat.
    (ii) Map of Unit 1, Monticello-Dove Creek: San Juan County, Utah, 
and Montrose, San Miguel, and Dolores Counties, Colorado, follows:
[GRAPHIC] [TIFF OMITTED] TR20NO14.005


[[Page 69358]]


    (7) Unit 2: Pi[ntilde]on Mesa: Grand County, Utah, and Mesa County, 
Colorado.
    (i) General Description: 207,792 ac (84,087 ha); 14.5 percent of 
all critical habitat.
    (ii) Map of Unit 2, Pi[ntilde]on Mesa: Grand County, Utah, and Mesa 
County, Colorado, follows:
[GRAPHIC] [TIFF OMITTED] TR20NO14.006


[[Page 69359]]


    (8) Unit 3: San Miguel Basin: Montrose, San Miguel, and Ouray 
Counties, Colorado.
    (i) General Description: 121,929 ac (49,343 ha); 8.5 percent of all 
critical habitat.
    (ii) Map of Unit 3, San Miguel Basin: Montrose, San Miguel, and 
Ouray Counties, Colorado, follows:
[GRAPHIC] [TIFF OMITTED] TR20NO14.007


[[Page 69360]]


    (9) Unit 4: Cerro Summit-Cimarron-Sims Mesa: Montrose, Ouray, and 
Gunnison Counties, Colorado.
    (i) General Description: 52,544 ac (21,264 ha); 3.7 percent of all 
critical habitat.
    (ii) Map of Unit 4, Cerro Summit-Cimarron-Sims Mesa: Montrose, 
Ouray, and Gunnison Counties, Colorado, follows:
[GRAPHIC] [TIFF OMITTED] TR20NO14.008


[[Page 69361]]


    (10) Unit 5: Crawford: Delta, Montrose, and Gunnison Counties, 
Colorado.
    (i) General Description: 83,671 ac (33,860 ha); 5.9 percent of all 
critical habitat.
    (ii) Map of Unit 5, Crawford: Delta, Montrose, and Gunnison 
Counties, Colorado, follows:
[GRAPHIC] [TIFF OMITTED] TR20NO14.009


[[Page 69362]]


    (11) Unit 6: Gunnison Basin: Gunnison, Saguache, Montrose, and 
Hinsdale Counties, Colorado.
    (i) General Description: 620,616 ac (251,154 ha); 43.4 percent of 
all critical habitat.
    (ii) Map of Unit 6, Gunnison Basin: Gunnison, Saguache, Montrose, 
and Hinsdale Counties, Colorado, follows:
[GRAPHIC] [TIFF OMITTED] TR20NO14.010


[[Page 69363]]


* * * * *

    Dated: October 21, 2014.
Michael J. Bean,
Principal Deputy Assistant Secretary for Fish and Wildlife and Parks.
[FR Doc. 2014-27113 Filed 11-19-14; 8:45 am]
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