June 13, 2007

Endangered and Threatened Species. Proposed Endangered Status for the Cook Inlet Beluga Whale; Public Hearings

SUMMARY: On April 20, 2007, NMFS proposed the listing of the Cook Inlet beluga whale as an endangered species under the Endangered Species Act of 1973 (ESA). As part of that proposal, NMFS announced a public comment period to end on June 19, 2007, and then extended the comment period to August 3, 2007. NMFS has received requests for public hearings on this issue. In response, NMFS is announcing that public hearings will be held at two locations in Alaska to provide additional opportunities and formats to receive public input.
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[Federal Register: June 13, 2007 (Volume 72, Number 113)]
[Proposed Rules]               
[Page 32605]
From the Federal Register Online via GPO Access [wais.access.gpo.gov]
[DOCID:fr13jn07-24]                         

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DEPARTMENT OF COMMERCE

National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration

50 CFR Part 224

[I.D. 021607C]

 
Endangered and Threatened Species. Proposed Endangered Status for 
the Cook Inlet Beluga Whale; Public Hearings

AGENCY: National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS), National Oceanic and 
Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), Commerce.

ACTION: Notice of public hearings.

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SUMMARY: On April 20, 2007, NMFS proposed the listing of the Cook Inlet 
beluga whale as an endangered species under the Endangered Species Act 
of 1973 (ESA). As part of that proposal, NMFS announced a public 
comment period to end on June 19, 2007, and then extended the comment 
period to August 3, 2007. NMFS has received requests for public 
hearings on this issue. In response, NMFS is announcing that public 
hearings will be held at two locations in Alaska to provide additional 
opportunities and formats to receive public input.

DATES: The hearings will be held on July 19, 2007, from 6 to 9 p.m. in 
Homer and on July 20, 2007, from 3:30 to 6:30 p.m. in Anchorage, AK. 
Written comments must be received by August 3, 2007.

ADDRESSES: The July 19, 2007, hearing will be held at the Maritime 
Refuge, Island and Oceans, 95 Sterling Highway 1, Homer, AK. 
The July 20, 2007, hearing will be held in hte Loussac Public Library, 
Wilda Marston Room, 3600 Denali Street, Anchorage, AK.
    Send comments to Kaja Brix, Assistant Regional Administrator, 
Protected Resources Division, Alaska Region, NMFS, Attn: Ellen 
Sebastian. Comments may be submitted by:
     E-mail: CIB-ESA-Endangered@noaa.gov. Include in the 
subject line the following document identifier: Cook Inlet Beluga Whale 
PR. E-mail comments, with or without attachments, are limited to 5 
megabytes.
     Webform at the Federal eRulemaking Portal: 

http://www.regulations.gov. Follow the instructions at that site for 

submitting comments.
     Mail: P. O Box 21668, Juneau, AK 99802.
     Hand delivery to the Federal Building : 709 W. 9\th\ 
Street, Juneau, AK.
     Fax: (907) 586-7557.

FOR FURTHER INFORMATION CONTACT: Brad Smith, NMFS, 222 West 7th Avenue, 
Anchorage, Alaska 99517, telephone (907) 271-5006; Kaja Brix, NMFS, 
(907) 586-7235; or Marta Nammack, (301) 713-1401.

SUPPLEMENTARY INFORMATION:

Background

    On April 20, 2007, NMFS published a proposed rule (72 FR 19854) to 
list the Cook Inlet beluga whale as an endangered species under the 
Endangered Species Act of 1973 (ESA), as amended. This action followed 
completion of the Cook Inlet beluga whale status review, which found 
this population to be at risk of extinction within the next 100 years 
and described NMFS' determination that this population constitutes a 
``species'', or distinct population segment under the ESA.

Public Hearings

    Joint Commerce-Interior ESA implementing regulations state that the 
Secretary shall promptly hold at least one public hearing if any person 
requests one within 45 days of publication of a proposed regulation to 
list a species or to designate critical habitat (see 50 CFR 
424.16(c)(3)). In past ESA rule-making NMFS has conducted traditional 
public hearings, consisting of recorded oral testimony from interested 
individuals. This format, although providing a means for public input, 
does not provide opportunities for dialogue and information exchange. 
NMFS believes that the traditional public hearing format can be 
improved upon by also including a brief presentation on the results of 
the Cook Inlet beluga Status Review and other topics of interest.
    The preferred means for providing public comment to the official 
record is via written testimony prepared in advance of the meeting 
which may also be presented orally. Blank ``comment sheets'' will be 
provided at the meetings for those without prepared written comments, 
and opportunity will also be provided for additional oral testimony. 
There is no need to register for these hearings.
    In scheduling these public hearings, NMFS has anticipated that many 
affected stakeholders and members of the public may prefer to discuss 
the proposed listing directly with staff during the public comment 
period. These public meetings are not the only opportunity for the 
public to provide input on this proposal. The public and stakeholders 
are encouraged to continue to comment and provide input to NMFS on the 
proposal (via correspondence, e-mail, and the Internet; see ADDRESSES) 
up until the scheduled close of the comment period on August 3, 2007.

References

    The proposed rule, status review, maps, a list of the references 
cited in this document, and other materials relating to the proposed 
listing can be found on the NMFS Alaska Region Web site http://www.fakr.noaa.gov/
.


    Authority: 16 U.S.C. 1531 et seq.

    Dated: June 8, 2007.
Wanda L. Cain,
Acting Director, Office of Protected Resources, National Marine 
Fisheries Service.
[FR Doc. E7-11420 Filed 6-12-07; 8:45 am]

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