(Media release from the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service):
The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service announced today it has revised the proposed critical habitat rule for the rufa red knot, a robin-sized shorebird currently listed as “threatened” under the Endangered Species Act, and is reopening the public comment period. The revised proposal is based on new information received during the first comment period that resulted in the inclusion of additional units of critical habitat and corrections or additions to the size of some previously proposed units.
The revised rule proposes to designate 683,405 acres of critical habitat across 13 states for the rufa red knot, which relies on U.S. habitats to fuel its remarkable migrations from the Canadian Arctic to the southern tip of South America. Some rufa red knots also winter along the U.S. Atlantic and Gulf coasts. The revision includes an overall increase of 32,615 acres from the proposal published on July 15, 2021, due to added areas, changes to previously proposed units, and acreage corrections.
During the comment period, the Service received new information that prompted a reevaluation of the best available information in some areas. This revision includes a total of seven new units located in Georgia, Massachusetts, New York, North Carolina, South Carolina and Virginia; revised units in Georgia, Massachusetts, New Jersey, South Carolina and Texas; and corrections to the reported size of four other units and to the total acreage.
The critical habitat units that were previously identified in Alabama, Delaware, Florida, Louisiana and Mississippi in the proposed rule published in July 2021 have not changed.
The revised proposed rule does not add units in states or counties that weren’t included in the original proposal.
If finalized, the designation would not require federal agencies to change their current approach to reviewing federal actions, such as those involving recreation, development or other activities in rufa red knot habitat. Because rufa red knots occupy the areas proposed as critical habitat, the Service already conducts consultations in those areas, as required under the ESA, to ensure the activities of federal agencies don’t jeopardize the species’ continued existence.
Threats to the rufa red knot are symptomatic of complex climate-related challenges faced by most coastal wildlife and communities. Beaches and marshes continue to be modified or lost to sea-level rise, shoreline stabilization and development.
Climate change affects the availability of food for rufa red knots, the timing of their annual migrations, and their rapidly warming breeding habitat in the Arctic. Human activity in many coastal areas disturbs the birds and disrupts their feeding and resting behaviors. Learn more about how these factors affect the rufa red knot.
The Service will continue to work with federal, state, local agencies and non-governmental organizations on projects to protect sensitive coastal habitat, benefiting the rufa red knot and coastal communities impacted by sea-level rise and storm surge.
Today’s announcement comes as the ESA turns 50 years old in 2023. Throughout the year, the Department of the Interior will celebrate the ESA’s importance in preventing imperiled species’ extinction, promoting the recovery of wildlife and conserving the habitats upon which they depend.
The ESA has been highly effective and credited with saving 99% of listed species from extinction. Thus far, more than 100 species of plants and animals have been delisted based on recovery or reclassified from endangered to threatened based on improved conservation status. Hundreds more species are stable or improving thanks to the collaborative actions of Tribes, federal agencies, state and local governments, conservation organizations and private citizens.
The revised proposed rule will publish in the Federal Register on Thursday, April 13, 2023, and will be available for public comment at www.regulations.gov under Docket No. FWS-R5-ES-2021-0032.
The Service requests comments or information from other governmental agencies, the scientific community, industry, or any other interested parties concerning this proposed rule. Comments must be received within 45 days, on or before Tuesday, May 30, 2023.
You can view the revised proposed rule today in the Federal Register reading room at: Federal Register :: Federal Register Documents Currently on Public Inspection