21 March 2000


ANCHORAGE, Alaska, March 15, 2000 (ENS) - The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS) has proposed to designate some 17,000 square miles of land and 8,440 square miles of marine waters as critical habitat for the Alaska breeding population of the Steller's eider, a threatened sea duck. "This proposal to designate critical habitat in Alaska highlights the fact that all species require healthy habitat to survive," said David Allen, USFWS regional director for Alaska. "As with the recent designation of critical habitat for the spectacled eider, we do not expect this will affect the lives or livelihoods of rural and Native Alaskans."

The proposal covers about 15,800 square miles of breeding habitat on the North Slope and 1,200 square miles on Yukon-Kuskokwim Delta, as well as marine waters in Kuskokwim Bay and along 9,000 miles of coastline, from Nunivak Island, to the eastern Aleutians, along the northern and southern shores of the Alaska Peninsula, and east to Kachemak Bay in Lower Cook Inlet and the Kodiak Archipelago. Biologists believe the areas proposed for designation encompass the primary breeding, molting, wintering, and migration staging areas of the Steller's eiders that breed in Alaska. More than 60 percent of the lands proposed to be designated as critical habitat for the Steller's eider is also critical habitat for the spectacled eider. USFWS will accept public comments on the proposal until May 11. Comments should be submitted to Ted Swem, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, Ecological Services Fairbanks, 101 12th Avenue, Box 19, Room 110, Fairbanks, AK 99701. The full proposal is available at: http://www.access.gpo.gov/su_docs/fedreg/a000313c.html (under Fish and Wildlife Service).