FWS delays designation of critical habitat for marbled murrelet, awaiting completion of Bureau of Land Management plans
73 Fed. Reg. 12067 (Mar. 6, 2008)(Fish and Wildlife Service; Endangered and Threatened Wildlife and Plants; Designation of Critical Habitat for the Marbled Murrelet (Brachyramphus marmoratus))
Photo from FWS
SUMMARY: We, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (Service), find that the proposed revision of critical habitat for the marbled murrelet (Brachyramphus marmoratus) pursuant to the Endangered Species Act of 1973, as amended, (Act), should not be made. On September 12, 2006, (71 FR 53840), we proposed to revise the May 24, 1996, designation of critical habitat for the marbled murrelet in Washington, Oregon, and California (61 FR 26256). Under the proposed revision, 3,590,642 acres (ac) (1,363,300 hectares (ha)) were proposed as critical habitat, with 3,368,950 ac (1,363,300 ha) of these lands proposed for exclusion under section 4(b)(2) of the Act. Due to uncertainties regarding Bureau of Land Management (BLM) revisions to its District Resource Management Plans in western Oregon, we have determined that it is not appropriate to revise the designation of critical habitat for the marbled murrelet at this time, as discussed below. Therefore, in accordance with the provisions of section 4(b)(6)(A)(i)(II) of the Act, we find that the proposed revision of critical habitat for the marbled murrelet should not be made. Accordingly, the May 24, 1996, final rule designating critical habitat for the marbled murrelet remains in effect (61 FR 26256).
COMMENTARY: The marbled murrelet has been the subject of continuous litigation on the west coast, particularly with Maxxam / Pacific Lumber. Understandably, FWS wants to ensure that if and when it does designate new critical habitat, it does it correctly, and takes into account emerging information. Normally, the deadlines in the ESA might make this matter ripe for still more litigation; however, in this case, the existing critical habitat designation will remain in place. Environmentalists have declared this inaction by FWS a significant victory. See, Seattle Post Intelligencer with links to competing press releases.
FWS web page on the marbled murrelet