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November 9, 2006 (Volume 71, Number 217)] [Rules and Regulations] [Page 66007-66061]

Designation of Critical Habitat for the Contiguous United States Distinct Population Segment of the Canada Lynx

AGENCY: Fish and Wildlife Service, Interior.

ACTION: Final rule.

SUMMARY: We, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (Service), are designating critical habitat for the contiguous United States distinct population segment of the Canada lynx (Lynx canadensis) (lynx) pursuant to the Endangered Species Act of 1973, as amended (Act). In total, approximately 1,841 square miles (mi2) (4,768 square kilometers (km\2\)) fall within the boundaries of the critical habitat designation, in three units in the States of Minnesota, Montana, and Washington.

DATES: This rule becomes effective on December 11, 2006.

ADDRESSES: Comments and materials received, as well as supporting documentation used in the preparation of this final rule, are available for public inspection, by appointment, during normal business hours, at the Montana Ecological Services Office, 585 Shepard Way, Helena, Montana 59601 (telephone 406/449-5225). The final rule, environmental assessment, and economic analysis are available via the Internet at http://mountain-prairie.fws.gov/species/mammals/lynx/criticalhabitat.htm

FOR FURTHER INFORMATION CONTACT: Mark Wilson, Field Supervisor, Montana Fish and Wildlife Office, at the above address, (telephone 406/449-
5225); Gordon Russell, Field Supervisor, Maine Field Office (207/827-
5938); Tony Sullins, Field Supervisor, Twin Cities Field Office
(Minnesota) (612/725-3548); or Susan Martin, Field Supervisor, Upper Columbia Fish and Wildlife Office (Washington) (509/891-6839).

During the comment period for the proposed rule that was open between November 9, 2005, and April 30, 2006, we received a total of
8,028 comment letters. For the comment period open from September 11,
2006 to October 11, 2006 we received 1,118 comments. A majority of the comments received were form letters. Comments were received from Federal, State, tribal and local governments, non-government organizations, private businesses, and individuals. In accordance with our policy published on July 1, 1994 (59 FR
34270), we solicited expert opinions from eleven knowledgeable individuals with scientific expertise that included familiarity with the species, the geographic region in which the species occurs, and conservation biology principles. We received responses from seven of the peer reviewers. The peer reviewers had differing assessments of our methods and conclusions and provided additional information, clarifications, and suggestions to improve the final critical habitat rule. Peer reviewer comments are addressed in the following summary and incorporated into the final rule as appropriate.

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