Daily Rules, Proposed Rules, and Notices of the Federal Government
The coordinates or plot points or both from which the maps are generated are included in the administrative record for this critical habitat designation and are available at
It is our intent to discuss in this final rule only those topics directly relevant to the development and designation of critical habitat for the Cumberland darter, rush darter, yellowcheek darter, Chucky madtom, and laurel dace under the Endangered Species Act of 1973, as amended (Act; 16 U.S.C. 1531
The Cumberland darter, rush darter, yellowcheek darter, Chucky madtom, and laurel dace were listed as endangered species under the Act on August 9, 2011 (76 FR 48722). For the full history of previous Federal actions regarding these five species, please refer to the final listing rule (76 FR 48722). In the June 24, 2010, proposed listing rule (75 FR 36035) we determined that designation of critical habitat was prudent for all five species. However, we found that critical habitat was not determinable at the time and set forth the steps we would undertake to obtain the information necessary to develop a proposed designation of critical habitat. The proposed rule to designate critical habitat for these fishes published in the
The Cumberland darter (
The Cumberland darter's current distribution is limited to 13 streams in McCreary and Whitley Counties, Kentucky, and Campbell and Scott Counties, Tennessee (Thomas 2007, pp. 11-12). Occurrences from these streams are thought to form six population clusters (Bunches Creek, Indian Creek, Marsh Creek, Jellico Creek, Wolf Creek, and Youngs Creek), which are geographically separated from one another by an average distance of 30.5 stream km (19 stream mi) (O'Bara 1988, p. 12; O'Bara 1991, p. 10; Thomas 2007, p. 3).
The primary threat to the Cumberland darter is physical habitat destruction or modification resulting from a variety of human-induced impacts such as siltation, disturbance of riparian corridors, and changes in channel morphology (Waters 1995, pp. 2-3; Skelton 1997, pp. 17, 19; Thomas 2007, p. 5). The most significant of these impacts is siltation (excess sediments suspended or deposited in a stream) caused by excessive releases of sediment from activities such as resource extraction (e.g., coal mining, silviculture, natural gas development), agriculture, road construction, and urban development (Waters 1995, pp. 2-3; Skelton 1997, pp. 17, 19; KDOW 2006, pp. 178-185; Thomas 2007, p. 5).
The rush darter (
The species is found in both urban and industrial zoned areas (Jefferson County) and rural settings (Winston and Etowah Counties). Within these areas, the rush darters' habitat has been degraded by alteration of stream banks and bottoms; channelization; inadequate storm water management; inappropriate placement of culverts, pipes, and bridges; road maintenance; inadequate protection of groundwater recharge zones and aquifers; and haphazard silvicultural and agricultural practices. The persistence of a constant flow of clean groundwater from various springs has somewhat offset the destruction of the species' habitat, water quality, and water quantity; however, the species' status still appears to be declining.
The yellowcheek darter (
Robison and Harp (1981, p. 5) estimated the range of the yellowcheek darter in the South Fork to extend from 2.9 km (1.8 mi) north northeast of Scotland, Arkansas, to U.S. Highway 65 in Clinton, Arkansas. The Middle Fork population was estimated to extend from just upstream of U.S. Highway 65 near Leslie, Arkansas, to 4.8 km (3.0 mi) west of Shirley, Arkansas. The Archey Fork population extended from its confluence with South Castleberry Creek to immediately downstream of U.S. Highway 65 in Clinton, Arkansas. The Devil's Fork population extended from 4.8 km (3.0 mi) north of Prim, Arkansas, to 6.1 km (3.8 mi) east southeast of Woodrow, Arkansas.
The yellowcheek darter is threatened primarily by factors associated with the present destruction, modification, or curtailment of its habitat or range. Threats include sedimentation and nutrient enrichment from impoundment, water diversion, gravel mining, channelization or channel
The Chucky madtom (
Little is known about Chucky madtom life history and behavior; however, this information is available for other similar members of the
The current range of the Chucky madtom is restricted to an approximate 3-km (1.8-mi) reach of Little Chucky Creek in Greene County, Tennessee. Degradation from sedimentation, physical habitat disturbance, and contaminants threaten the habitat and water quality on which the Chucky madtom depends. Sedimentation could negatively affect the Chucky madtom by reducing growth rates, disease tolerance, and gill function; reducing spawning habitat, reproductive success, and egg, larval, and juvenile development; reducing food availability through reductions in prey; and reducing foraging efficiency. Contaminants associated with agriculture (e.g., fertilizers, pesticides, herbicides, and animal waste) can cause degradation of water quality and habitats through instream oxygen deficiencies, excess nutrification, and excessive algal growths.
The laurel dace (
The current distribution of laurel dace encompasses six of seven historical streams; the species is considered extirpated from Laurel Branch (see above). In these six streams, the species is known to occupy reaches ranging in length from 0.3 to 8.0 rkm (0.2 to 5 rmi). Laurel dace have been most often collected from pools or slow runs from undercut banks or beneath slab-rock boulders, typically in first or second order, clear, cool (maximum temperature 26 °C or 78.8 °F) streams. Substrates in laurel dace streams typically consist of a mixture of cobble, rubble, and boulders, and the streams tend to have a dense riparian zone consisting largely of mountain laurel (Skelton 2001, pp. 125-126).
The primary threat to laurel dace throughout its range is excessive siltation resulting from agriculture and extensive silviculture, especially those involving inadequate riparian buffers in harvest areas and the failure to use best management practices (BMPs) during road construction. Severe degradation from sedimentation, physical habitat disturbance, and contaminants threatens the habitat and water quality on which the laurel dace depends. Sedimentation negatively affects the laurel dace by reducing growth rates, disease tolerance, and gill function; reducing spawning habitat, reproductive success, and egg, larvae, and juvenile development; reducing food availability through reductions in prey; and reducing foraging efficiency.
We requested written comments from the public on the proposed designation of critical habitat for the Cumberland darter, rush darter, yellowcheek darter, Chucky madtom, and laurel dace during two comment periods. The first comment period associated with the publication of the proposed rule (76 FR 63360) opened on October 12, 2011, and closed on December 12, 2011. Based on a request made after the comment period had ended, we held a public informational meeting concerning the critical habitat designation for the yellowcheek darter on February 22, 2012, in Clinton, Arkansas, where we took comments on the proposed rule and notified the public that we would also take public comments on the rule through the end of the comment period for a draft economic analysis. That comment period opened May 24, 2012, and closed on June 25, 2012 (77 FR 30988). Based on a request received during the first comment period, we held a public hearing in Clinton, Arkansas, on June 7, 2012. We also contacted appropriate Federal, State, and local agencies; scientific organizations; and other interested parties and invited them to comment on the proposed rule and draft economic analysis during these comment periods. We issued press releases and published legal notices in
During the first comment period, we received 66 comment letters directly addressing the proposed critical habitat designation. During the February 22, 2012, public informational meeting, 11 individuals or organizations made comments on the designation of critical habitat for the yellowcheek darter. During the second comment period, we received 54 comment letters addressing the proposed critical habitat designation or the draft economic analysis. During the June 7, 2012, public hearing, four individuals or organizations made comments on the designation of critical habitat for the yellowcheek darter. All substantive information provided during the comment periods has either been incorporated directly into this final
In accordance with our peer review policy published on July 1, 1994 (59 FR 34270), we solicited expert opinions from 15 knowledgeable individuals with scientific expertise that included familiarity with the five species and the geographic region in which the species occur. We received responses from three of the peer reviewers.
We reviewed all comments received from the peer reviewers for substantive issues and new information regarding critical habitat for the five fishes. The peer reviewers generally concurred with our methods and conclusions, and provided additional information, clarifications, and suggestions to improve the final critical habitat rule. Peer reviewer comments are addressed in the following summary and incorporated into the final rule as appropriate.
For the Cumberland darter, rush darter, and Chucky madtom, the peer reviewers agreed we relied on the best scientific information available, accurately described the species and its habitat requirements (primary constituent elements (PCEs)), accurately characterized the reasons for the species' decline and the threats to its habitat, and concurred with our critical habitat selection criteria. We did not receive any comments from peer reviewers related to the yellowcheek darter or laurel dace. We respond to all substantive comments below.
The Service determined that the project would have minimal to no effect on the rush darter, which occurs in a drainage removed from the action area (Everson 2012, pers. comm.).
Section 4(i) of the Act states, “the Secretary shall submit to the State agency a written justification for his failure to adopt regulations consistent with the agency's comments or petition.” We received one comment from the Kentucky Department of Fish and Wildlife Resources (KDFWR) related to road crossings and culverts acting as threats to the Cumberland darter. This comment was incorporated into this final rule. We did not receive any other substantive comments from the States (Alabama, Arkansas, Kentucky, or Tennessee) regarding the proposed rule. No official position was expressed by the States on the critical habitat designation.
The designation of critical habitat does not create streamside buffers or impose requirements to fence livestock or other animals from streams. Waters of navigable streams, such as those designated as critical habitat for the yellowcheek darter, are considered public waters by the State of Arkansas. The designation includes river channels within the ordinary high water line, which would not include adjacent private properties.
In fulfilling this requirement, we received and used information on the biology, ecology, distribution, abundance, status, and trends of species from a wide variety of sources. These sources include status surveys, biological assessments, and other unpublished material (that is, “gray literature”) from State natural resource agencies and natural heritage programs, Tribal governments, other Federal agencies, consulting firms, contractors, and individuals associated with professional organizations and higher educational institutions. We also use published articles from professional journals. Service biologists are required to gather, review, and evaluate information from these sources prior to undertaking listing, recovery, consultation, and permitting actions. Additionally, Service biologists surveyed most of the areas proposed as critical habitat for the yellowcheek darter as part of a 2004 threats assessment for the endangered speckled pocketbook mussel (
In preparing this final critical habitat designation for the Cumberland darter, rush darter, yellowcheek darter, Chucky madtom, and laurel dace, we reviewed and considered comments from the public on the proposed designation of critical habitat published on October 12, 2011 (76 FR 63360) and our announcement of the availability of the DEA published on May 24, 2012 (77 FR 30988). We likewise reviewed and considered comments from a public informational meeting held on February 22, 2012, and a public hearing held on June 7, 2012, both in Clinton, Arkansas. As a result of public comments and peer review, we made changes to our designation of critical habitat for these five fishes. These changes are as follows:
(1) We added additional threats information for the Cumberland darter, rush darter, Chucky madtom, and laurel dace.
(2) We capitalized the common name of the Chucky madtom, to reflect the fact that it is named after Little Chucky Creek, and is therefore, a proper noun. We updated a reference for Chucky madtom habitat and threats, and clarified that Little Chucky Creek is the entire current range (but not the entire historic range) of the Chucky madtom in the
(3) We updated the total number of river kilometers for the Cumberland darter unit 1, and all four yellowcheek darter units, due to a change in mapping methodology. The beginning and ending points of critical habitat, as well as the unit descriptions (as described in the proposed critical habitat rule) remain the same. The change in mapping results from standardizing methods used to estimate the unit lengths designated as critical habitat for all five species. This methodology better follows the meander of the river channel and results in an additional 0.5 river kilometers (rkm) (0.3 river miles (rmi)) for the Cumberland darter, and an additional 6.6 rkm (4.1 rmi) for the yellowcheek darter.
(4) We revised the ownership of one property for the yellowcheek darter critical habitat, resulting in a change of the total number of river kilometers in private ownership from 148 rkm (92 rmi) to 162.7 rkm (101.1 rmi), as well as a corresponding downward revision in the other ownership types.
(5) We revised the
(6) We added a spring run and associated wetlands to Unit 2 as critical habitat for the rush darter. This 0.13 ha (0.32 ac) spring associated wetland and 85.8 m (0.05 mi) spring run is adjacent to the headwaters of the Unnamed Tributary to Beaver Creek and is privately owned.
(7) We corrected errors in calculating total length and area in Table 2 for the rush darter.
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
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 under 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) would 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 geographical 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, when laid out in the appropriate quantity and spatial arrangement to provide for a species' life-history processes, 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 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. For example, an area currently 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 geographical area occupied by a species only when a designation limited to its 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
When we are determining which areas should be designated as critical habitat, our primary source of information is generally the information developed during the listing process for the species. Additional information sources may include the recovery plan for the species, articles in peer-reviewed journals, conservation plans developed by States and counties, scientific status surveys and studies, biological assessments, other unpublished materials, or experts' opinions 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 affect 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 these planning efforts calls for a different outcome.
In accordance with sections 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 or 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 distribution of a species.
We derive the specific physical or biological features essential for the Cumberland darter, rush darter, yellowcheek darter, Chucky madtom, and laurel dace from studies of these species' habitats, ecology, and life history as described in the Critical Habitat section of the proposed rule to designate critical habitat published in the
Little is known about the specific space requirements of the Cumberland darter; however, the species is typically found in low to moderate gradient, second- to fourth-order, geomorphically stable streams, where it occupies shallow pools or runs with gentle current over sand or sand-covered bedrock substrates with patches of gravel or debris (O'Bara 1991, p. 10; Thomas 2007, p. 4). Geomorphically stable streams transport sediment while maintaining their horizontal and vertical dimensions (width to depth ratio and cross-sectional area), pattern (sinuosity), and longitudinal profile (riffles, runs, and pools), thereby conserving the physical characteristics of the stream, including bottom features such as riffles, runs, and pools and the transition zones between these features. The protection and maintenance of these habitat features accommodate spawning, rearing, growth, migration, and other normal behaviors of the Cumberland darter.
Limited information exists with regard to upstream or downstream movements of Cumberland darters; however, Winn (1958a, pp. 163-164) reported considerable pre-spawn movements for its closest relative, the Johnny darter. In Beer Creek, Monroe County, Michigan, Johnny darters migrated several miles between temporary stream habitats and permanent pools in downstream reaches. Recent capture data for tagged individuals in Cogur Fork, McCreary County, Kentucky, demonstrate that Cumberland darters may make similar movements (Thomas 2010, pers. comm.). Individuals tagged and released by the Kentucky Department of Fish and Wildlife Resources (KDFWR) and Conservation Fisheries, Inc. (CFI), traveled distances ranging from 0.4 to 0.7 rkm (0.2 to 0.4 rmi) between their release date of September 22, 2010, and their recapture date of November 9, 2010 (period of 48 days) (Thomas 2010, pers. comm.). Over longer periods, it is likely that Cumberland darters can utilize stream reaches longer than 0.7 rkm (0.4 rmi).
The current range of the Cumberland darter has been reduced to 13 streams (15 occurrences) due to destruction and fragmentation of habitat. Fragmentation of the species' habitat has subjected these small populations to genetic isolation, reduced space for rearing and reproduction, reduced adaptive capabilities, and an increased likelihood of local extinctions (Burkhead
Therefore, based on the information above, we identify shallow pools and runs and associated stream segments of geomorphically stable, second- to fourth-order streams to be an essential physical or biological feature for the Cumberland darter. The connectivity of these habitats is essential in accommodating feeding, breeding, growth, and other normal behaviors of the Cumberland darter and in promoting gene flow within the species.
Little is known about the specific space requirements of the rush darter in the Turkey Creek, Little Cove-Bristow Creek, and Clear Creek systems (Boschung and Mayden 2004, p. 551); however, in general, darters depend on space within geomorphically stable streams with varying water quantities and flow. Specifically, rush darters appear to prefer springs and spring-fed reaches of relatively low-gradient, small streams (Bart and Taylor 1999, p. 32; Johnston and Kleiner 2001, pp. 3-4; Stiles and Blanchard 2001, pp. 1-4; Bart 2002, p. 1; Fluker
Geomorphically stable streams transport sediment while maintaining their horizontal and vertical dimensions (width to depth ratio and cross-sectional area), pattern (sinuosity), and longitudinal profile (riffles, runs, and pools), thereby conserving the physical characteristics of the stream, including bottom features such as riffles, runs, and pools and the transition zones between these features that contain some silt, sand, and finer substrates. The riffles, runs, and pools not only provide space for the rush darter, but also provide space for emergent vegetation in shallow water along the margins of the small streams and springs for cover, and shelter necessary for breeding, reproduction, and growth of offspring.
The current range of the rush darter within the entire Turkey Creek, Clear Creek, and Little Cove-Bristow Creek watersheds is reduced to localized sites due to fragmentation, separation, and destruction of rush darter habitats and populations. There are dispersal barriers (pipes and culverts for road crossings; channelized stream segments; and emergent aquatic plant control, which eliminates cover habitat for the species) and an increased amount of water extraction, which results in insufficient aquifer recharge zones that may contribute to the separation and isolation of rush darter populations and affect water quality. Fragmentation of the species' habitat