FWS revises piping plover critical habitat boundaries in Texas
74 Fed. Reg. 23476 / Vol. 74, No. 95 / Tuesday, May 19, 2009
DEPARTMENT OF THE INTERIOR / Fish and Wildlife Service / 50 CFR Part 17 / Endangered and Threatened Wildlife and Plants; Revised Designation of Critical Habitat for the Wintering Population of the Piping Plover (Charadrius melodus) in Texas
ACTION: Final rule.
SUMMARY: We, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (Service), designate revised critical habitat for the wintering population of the piping plover (Charadrius melodus) in 18 specific units in Texas under the Endangered Species Act of 1973, as amended (Act). In total, approximately 139,029 acres (56,263 hectares) fall within the boundaries of the revised critical habitat designation. The revised critical habitat is located in Cameron, Willacy, Kenedy, Kleberg, Nueces, Aransas, Calhoun, Matagorda, and Brazoria Counties, Texas. Other previously designated critical habitat for the wintering piping plover in Texas or elsewhere in the United States remains unaffected.
EXCERPT: The Texas General Land Office (GLO) filed suit on March 20, 2006, challenging our designation of 19 units of critical habitat along the Texas coast (Units 3, 4, 7, 8, 9, 10, 14, 15, 16, 17, 18, 19, 22, 23, 27, 28, 31, 32, and 33). In a July 26, 2006, stipulated settlement agreement and court order, the court vacated and remanded the designation for reconsideration (Texas General Land Office v. U.S. Department of the Interior, et al., No. 06-CV-00032 (S.D. Tex.). This rule addresses only the court-vacated and remanded units (the 19 units referenced above).
Data concerning the wintering population of the piping plover found along the Texas Gulf Coast indicate that wintering piping plovers are found on barrier islands, especially in the mud flats (nearly flat areas made up of mud), sand flats (nearly flat areas made up of sand), algal flats (nearly flat areas with a layer of algae growing on a moist mud or sand substrate), and washover passes (areas
where breaks in the sand dunes result in an inlet). Photo from Padre Island National Seashore.
KEITHINKING: Squarely addressing the uncertainties raised regarding the proper boundaries of piping plover critical habitat in Texas, FWS obtained more data. "If there was a question as to whether a piping plover was reported from an area two or more times between 1997 and 2007, Ecological Services field office biologists made a site visit during the wintering season at the appropriate tidal range to confirm presence." According to the Federal Register announcement, all revised critical habitat units in Texas are within areas that FWS determined were
occupied at the time of listing, and that contain the PCEs in the appropriate spatial arrangement needed to support life history functions essential for the conservation of the species.