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AGENCY: National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS), National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), Commerce. ACTION: Proposed rule; request for comments.

Public Comments Solicited

    To ensure that any final action resulting from this proposal will be as accurate and effective as possible, we are soliciting comments from the public, other concerned governmental agencies, the scientific community, industry, and any other interested parties. We must base our final determination on the best available scientific and commercial information when making listing determinations. We cannot, for example, consider the economic effects of a listing determination. Final promulgation of any regulation(s) on these species or withdrawal of this listing proposal will take into consideration the comments and any additional information we receive, and such communications may lead to a final regulation that differs from this proposal or result in a withdrawal of this listing proposal.

Solicitation of Information

In addition to comments on the proposed rule, we are soliciting information on features and areas that may support designations of critical habitat for the coral species newly proposed to be listed. As to Acropora palmata and A. cervicornis, for which critical habitat has already been designated, we have broad discretion to revise existing designations from time to time as appropriate, and we may decide to exercise this discretion based on information received and available on potential critical habitat features for the other coral species. Information provided should identify the physical and biological features essential to the conservation of the species and areas that contain these features for the coral species proposed to be listed. Areas outside the occupied geographical area should also be identified if such areas themselves are essential to the conservation of the species. Essential features may include, but are not limited to, features specific to individual species' ranges, habitats and life history characteristics within the following general categories of habitat features: (1) Space for individual growth and for normal behavior; (2) food, water, air, light, minerals, or other nutritional or physiological requirements; (3) cover or shelter; (4) sites for reproduction and development of offspring; and (5) habitats that are protected from disturbance or are representative of the historical, geographical, and ecological distributions of the species (50 CFR 424.12(b)). ESA implementing regulations at 50 CFR 424.12(h) specifythat critical habitat shall not be designated within foreign countries or in other areas outside of U.S. jurisdiction. Therefore, we request information only on potential areas of critical habitat within waters in U.S. jurisdiction.
    For features and areas potentially qualifying as critical habitat, we also request information describing: (1) Activities or other threats to the essential features or activities that could be affected by designating them as critical habitat, and (2) the positive and negative economic, national security and other relevant impacts, including benefits to the recovery of the species, likely to result if these areas are designated as critical habitat.

Public Hearing Dates and Locations Public hearings will be held at 20 locations in Puerto Rico, the U.S. Virgin Islands, Florida, Hawaii, Guam, the Northern Mariana Islands, and American Samoa, during the public comment period. The public hearings in Hawaii, Guam, the Northern Mariana Islands, and American Samoa will be held from 6:30 p.m. to 9:30 p.m. to gather formal public comments on this proposed rule, preceded by town hall meetings from 5:00 p.m. to 6:30 p.m. to provide information about the proposed rule. The specific dates and locations of these meetings are listed below: (1) Monday, January 14, 2013, at the Nova Southeastern University Center of Excellence for Coral Reef Ecosystem Science, 8000 North Ocean Drive, Dania Beach, FL 33004, 7-9 p.m. (2) Tuesday, January 15, 2013, at the John Pennekamp State Park Visitors Center, 102601 Overseas Highway, Key Largo, Florida 33037, 7-9 p.m.(3) Wednesday, January 16, 2013, at the Florida Keys Eco-Discovery Center, 35 East Quay Road, Key West, FL 33040, 7-9 p.m. (4) Monday, February 4, 2013, at the Department of Natural and Environmental Resources, 4th Floor Conference Room, Road 8838, km. 6.3, Sector El Cinco, R[iacute]o Piedras, Puerto Rico, 6-8 p.m. (5) Tuesday, February 5, 2013, at the University of Puerto Rico– Mayag[uuml]ez Campus, Salas Eugene Francis, Physics Building, Room 229, Mayag[uuml]ez, Puerto Rico, 6-8 p.m. (6) Wednesday, February 6, 2013, at the Buck Island Reef National Monument, 2100 Church Street

To submit comments go to!documentDetail;D=NOAA-NMFS-2010-0036-0398