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Feds Propose Protecting 1.7M Acres

September 25, 2002

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SAN FRANCISCO (AP) _ The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service proposed Tuesday that 1.7 million acres, primarily in California, be designated as critical habitat to protect 15 species of plants and shrimp.

The 11 plant and four freshwater shrimp species live in and around seasonally flooded pools and are an important part of the food chain for an array of frogs, birds, salamanders and other animals.

The proposed habitat designation would affect 36 counties in California and one in Oregon. More than 75 percent of the land is privately held.

The opportunity for public comment on the proposal opened Tuesday and ends Nov. 24. The Fish and Wildlife Service will review the comments and determine the final acreage, a process officials hope to conclude by next fall.

The critical habitat designation protects areas where each species lives but does not preclude development. Instead, the designation serves as a guideline for projects that involve federal funds _ regulatory requirements for most private property owners are no greater under the designation than under the Endangered Species Act, which prohibits the killing or removal of a protected species or its habitat.

The pools fill with rain during the winter but evaporate during summer months, leaving only specially adapted plants and animals such as those proposed for protection.

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On the Net:

Fish and Wildlife agency: http://sacramento.fws.gov

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