4.8 Million Acre Lockup Planned in Southwest

By Dept. of Interior Press Release

Public hearings on a proposal by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service to designate nearly 4.8 million acres of land in Arizona, New Mexico, Colorado and Utah as critical habitat for the threatened Mexican spotted owl have been scheduled. The hearings will be held from 6 to 9 PM on the following dates at these locations: March 22, 1995 –Morgan Hall, 310 Old Santa Fe Trail, Santa Fe, New Mexico March 23, 1995 –Galena Auditorium, New Mexico Institute of Mining and Technology, 1 Olive Lane, Socorro, New Mexico March 29, 1995–Rincon Room, Student Union, Second Floor, University of Arizona, Tucson, Arizona March 30, 1995-Flagstaff High School Auditorium, 400 W Elm St., Flagstaff; Arizona.

The Service has also completed an economic analysis of the proposal, and will provide a copy of the document to interest parties on request. The public comment period has been reopened to receive comments on the analysis and the proposed designation of critical habitat; it will remain open until May 8, 1995. Written comments and requests for the economic analysis should be sent to: State Supervisor, Fish and Wildlife Service, 2105 Osuna NE, Albuquerque, NM 87113; (505) 761-4525.

The proposal includes the potential deletion of lands of the Jicarilla Apache Tribe. It also includes proposed exclusions of lands of the Navajo Nation, and the Southern Ute, Mescalero Apache and San Carlos Apache Tribes based on economic information provided for the analysis, However, the economic information was not conclusive, and in order to make a final determination, the Service is requesting information concerning the abundance, distribution and management of the Mexican spotted owl on these lands.

The Service listed the Mexican spotted owl as a threatened species on March 16, 1993. At the time of the listing, the Service found that although considerable knowledge of Mexican sported owl habitat needs had been gathered in recent years, habitat maps in sufficient detail to accurately delineate critical habitat were not available. Subsequent to listing, the Service continued to gather the data necessary to develop the proposal to designate critical habitat. On February 14, 1994, environmental groups and an individual filed a lawsuit in the Federal District Court in Arizona against the Department of the Interior for failure to designate critical habitat for the Mexican spotted owl.

On October 6, 1994, the Court ordered the Service to publish a proposed designation of critical habitat including economic exclusion, no later than December 1, 1994. The proposal was published in the Federal Register on December 7, 1994. A total of 4,770,223 acres in 28 counties was proposed for inclusion in critical habitat: Arizona, 2 million acres; New Mexico, 2.5 million acres; Colorado, 100,000 acres; Utah, 190,000 acres.

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