Endangered and Threatened Wildlife and Plants; Designation of Critical Habitat for Florida Bonneted Bat

Cited as:85 FR 35510
Court:Fish And Wildlife Service
Publication Date:10 Jun 2020
Record Number:2020-10840
Federal Register, Volume 85 Issue 112 (Wednesday, June 10, 2020)
[Federal Register Volume 85, Number 112 (Wednesday, June 10, 2020)]
                [Proposed Rules]
                [Pages 35510-35544]
                From the Federal Register Online via the Government Publishing Office [www.gpo.gov]
                [FR Doc No: 2020-10840]
                [[Page 35509]]
                Vol. 85
                Wednesday,
                No. 112
                June 10, 2020
                Part II
                Department of the Interior
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                Fish and Wildlife Service
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                50 CFR Part 17
                Endangered and Threatened Wildlife and Plants; Designation of Critical
                Habitat for Florida Bonneted Bat; Proposed Rule
                Federal Register / Vol. 85 , No. 112 / Wednesday, June 10, 2020 /
                Proposed Rules
                [[Page 35510]]
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                DEPARTMENT OF THE INTERIOR
                Fish and Wildlife Service
                50 CFR Part 17
                [Docket No. FWS-R4-ES-2019-0106; FF09E21000 FXES11110900000 201]
                RIN 1018-BE10
                Endangered and Threatened Wildlife and Plants; Designation of
                Critical Habitat for Florida Bonneted Bat
                AGENCY: Fish and Wildlife Service, Interior.
                ACTION: Proposed rule.
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                SUMMARY: We, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (Service), propose to
                designate critical habitat for the Florida bonneted bat (Eumops
                floridanus) under the Endangered Species Act (Act). Approximately
                598,261 hectares (ha) (1,478,333 acres (ac)) in portions of 10 Florida
                counties fall within the boundaries of the proposed critical habitat
                designation. If we finalize this rule as proposed, it would extend the
                Act's protections to this species' critical habitat. We also announce
                the availability of a draft economic analysis of the proposed
                designation.
                DATES: We will accept comments on the proposed rule or draft economic
                analysis that are received or postmarked on or before August 10, 2020.
                Comments submitted electronically using the Federal eRulemaking Portal
                (see ADDRESSES, below) must be received by 11:59 p.m. Eastern Time on
                the closing date. We must receive requests for public hearings, in
                writing, at the address shown in FOR FURTHER INFORMATION CONTACT by
                July 27, 2020.
                ADDRESSES: Comment submission: You may submit comments on the proposed
                rule or draft economic analysis by one of the following methods:
                 (1) Electronically: Go to the Federal eRulemaking Portal: http://www.regulations.gov. In the Search box, enter Docket No. FWS-R4-ES-
                2019-0106, which is the docket number for this rulemaking. Then, click
                on the Search button. On the resulting page, in the Search panel on the
                left side of the screen, under the Document Type heading, check the
                Proposed Rules box to locate this document. You may submit a comment by
                clicking on ``Comment Now!''
                 (2) By hard copy: Submit by U.S. mail to: Public Comments
                Processing, Attn: FWS-R4-ES-2019-0106, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service;
                MS: JAO/1N, 5275 Leesburg Pike, Falls Church, VA 22041-3803.
                 We request that you send comments only by the methods described
                above. We will post all comments on http://www.regulations.gov. This
                generally means that we will post any personal information you provide
                us (see Information Requested, below, for more information).
                 Document availability: The draft economic analysis is available at
                http://www.fws.gov/verobeach/, at http://www.regulations.gov at Docket
                No. FWS-R4-ES-2019-0106, and at the South Florida Ecological Services
                Field Office (see FOR FURTHER INFORMATION CONTACT).
                 The coordinates or plot points or both from which the maps are
                generated for this proposed critical habitat designation are available
                at http://www.fws.gov/verobeach/, at http://www.regulations.gov at
                Docket No. FWS-R4-ES-2019-0106, and at the South Florida Ecological
                Services Field Office (see FOR FURTHER INFORMATION CONTACT). Supporting
                documents, consisting of supplemental information and details relating
                to conservation lands, can be found at http://www.regulations.gov at
                Docket No. FWS-R4-ES-2019-0106. Any additional tools or supporting
                information that we may develop for this critical habitat designation
                will also be available at the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service website
                and field office listed below, and may also be included in the preamble
                below and/or at http://www.regulations.gov.
                FOR FURTHER INFORMATION CONTACT: Roxanna Hinzman, Field Supervisor,
                U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, South Florida Ecological Services Field
                Office, 1339 20th Street, Vero Beach, Florida 32960-3559; telephone
                772-562-3909. If you use a telecommunications device for the deaf
                (TDD), call the Federal Relay Service at 800-877-8339.
                SUPPLEMENTARY INFORMATION:
                Executive Summary
                 Why we need to publish a proposed rule. Under the Endangered
                Species Act of 1973, as amended (``Act''; 16 U.S.C. 1531 et seq.), when
                we determine that any species is an endangered or threatened species,
                we are required to designate critical habitat, to the maximum extent
                prudent and determinable. Designations of critical habitat can only be
                completed by issuing a rule.
                 What this document does. This document proposes a designation of
                critical habitat for the Florida bonneted bat, an endangered species,
                in portions of 10 Florida counties.
                 The basis for our action. Under the Act, if we determine that a
                species is an endangered or threatened species we must, to the maximum
                extent prudent and determinable, designate critical habitat. Section
                4(b)(2) of the Act states that the Secretary shall designate critical
                habitat on the basis of the best available scientific data after taking
                into consideration the economic impact, national security impact, and
                any other relevant impact of specifying any particular area as critical
                habitat. The Secretary may exclude an area from critical habitat if he
                determines that the benefits of such exclusion outweigh the benefits of
                specifying such area as part of the critical habitat, unless he
                determines, based on the best scientific data available, that the
                failure to designate such area will result in the extinction of the
                species.
                 Economic analysis. We have prepared a draft analysis of the
                economic impacts of the proposed critical habitat designation. We are
                announcing the availability of the draft economic analysis (DEA) with
                the publication of this proposed rule and are seeking public review and
                comment on the DEA as well as on the proposed rule.
                 We are seeking peer review. We are seeking comments from
                independent specialists to ensure that our critical habitat proposal is
                based on scientifically sound data and analyses. We have invited these
                peer reviewers to comment on our specific assumptions and conclusions
                in this proposed rule.
                Uncommon Acronyms Used in this Proposed Rule
                 For the convenience of the reader, listed below are some of the
                acronyms used in this proposed rule:
                APAFR = Avon Park Air Force Range
                BCNP = Big Cypress National Preserve
                DoD = Department of Defense
                DHS = Department of Homeland Security
                ENP = Everglades National Park
                FLUCCS = Florida Land Use and Cover Classification System
                FNAI = Florida Natural Areas Inventory
                FPNWR = Florida Panther National Wildlife Refuge
                FSPSP = Fakahatchee Strand Preserve State Park
                FWC = Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission
                IEM = incremental effects memorandum
                INRMP = integrated natural resources management plan
                PBFs = physical or biological features
                PSSF = Picayune Strand State Forest
                RCW = red-cockaded woodpecker (Picoides borealis)
                UF = University of Florida
                WMA = Wildlife Management Area
                Information Requested
                 We intend that any final action resulting from this proposed rule
                will be based on the best scientific data available and be as accurate
                and as
                [[Page 35511]]
                effective as possible. Therefore, we request comments or information
                from other concerned government agencies, the scientific community,
                industry, or any other interested party concerning this proposed rule.
                We particularly seek comments concerning:
                 (1) The reasons why we should or should not designate habitat as
                ``critical habitat'' under section 4 of the Act including information
                to inform the following factors that the regulations identify as
                reasons why a designation of critical habitat may be not prudent:
                 (a) The species is threatened by taking or other human activity and
                identification of critical habitat can be expected to increase the
                degree of such threat to the species;
                 (b) The present or threatened destruction, modification, or
                curtailment of a species' habitat or range is not a threat to the
                species, or threats to the species' habitat stem solely from causes
                that cannot be addressed through management actions resulting from
                consultations under section 7(a)(2) of the Act;
                 (c) Areas within the jurisdiction of the United States provide no
                more than negligible conservation value, if any, for a species
                occurring primarily outside the jurisdiction of the United States; or
                 (d) No areas meet the definition of critical habitat.
                 (2) Specific information on:
                 (a) The amount and distribution of Florida bonneted bat habitat.
                 (b) What may constitute ``physical or biological features essential
                to the conservation of the species,'' within the geographical range
                currently occupied by the Florida bonneted bat.
                 (c) Where these features are currently found.
                 (d) Whether any of these features within areas we are proposing as
                critical habitat may require special management considerations or
                protection, including managing for the potential effects of climate
                change.
                 (e) What areas, that may be considered occupied at the time of
                listing and that contain the physical or biological features essential
                to the conservation of the species, should be included in the
                designation.
                 (f) Whether occupied areas may be inadequate for the conservation
                of the species, and if so, we particularly seek comments regarding:
                 (i) What areas not occupied at the time of listing may be essential
                for the conservation of the species; and
                 (ii) Specific information regarding whether such unoccupied areas
                will, with reasonable certainty, contribute to the conservation of the
                species and contain at least one physical or biological feature
                essential to the conservation of the species.
                 (g) Any additional areas occurring within the range of the species,
                i.e., south and central Florida, that should be included in the
                designation because they (1) are occupied at the time of listing and
                contain the physical and biological features that are essential to the
                conservation of the species and that may require special management
                considerations, or (2) are unoccupied at the time of listing and are
                essential for the conservation of the species.
                 (h) Whether we have determined the most appropriate size and
                configuration of our proposed critical habitat units.
                 (i) Whether any delineated area within the proposed critical
                habitat appears to be a result of occupancy data associated with
                artificial structures, and any support for the area's inclusion or
                omission. (Our analyses were based on habitat requirements, natural
                roosts, and presence data, and due to the species' large foraging
                distance, it is unlikely that any areas were included solely due to the
                presence of an artificial structure; nonetheless, we seek comment on
                this.)
                 (j) Whether artificial structures that provide roosting sites,
                particularly bat houses, and structures that may provide roost sites,
                such as bridges, may be essential for the conservation of the species
                and why.
                 (k) Whether agricultural lands that may provide foraging habitat
                are essential for the conservation of the species and why.
                 (3) Land use designations and current or planned activities (e.g.,
                proposed development, wind energy projects, etc.) in the subject areas
                and their possible impacts on the Florida bonneted bat and proposed
                critical habitat.
                 (4) Information on the projected and reasonably likely impacts of
                climate change on the Florida bonneted bat and proposed critical
                habitat.
                 (5) Any probable economic, national security, or other relevant
                impacts of designating any area that may be included in the final
                designation, and the related benefits of including or excluding areas
                that may be impacted.
                 (6) Information on the extent to which the description of probable
                economic impacts in the draft economic analysis is a reasonable
                estimate of the likely economic impacts.
                 (7) The likelihood of adverse social reactions to the designation
                of critical habitat and how the consequences of such reactions, if
                likely to occur, would relate to the conservation and regulatory
                benefits of the proposed critical habitat designation.
                 (8) Whether any specific areas we are proposing for critical
                habitat designation should be considered for exclusion under section
                4(b)(2) of the Act, and whether the benefits of potentially excluding
                any specific area outweigh the benefits of including that area under
                section 4(b)(2) of the Act. We particularly seek comments regarding
                lands that could be considered for exclusion based on a conservation
                program or plan, and why. These may include Federal, Tribal, State,
                County, local, or private lands with permitted conservation plans
                covering the species in the area such as habitat conservation plans,
                safe harbor agreements, or conservation easements, or non-permitted
                conservation agreements and partnerships that would be encouraged by
                designation of, or exclusion from, critical habitat. Detailed
                information regarding these plans, agreements, easements, and
                partnerships is also requested, including:
                 (a) The location and size of lands covered by the plan, agreement,
                easement, or partnership;
                 (b) The duration of the plan, agreement, easement, or partnership;
                 (c) Who holds or manages the land;
                 (d) What management activities are conducted;
                 (e) What land uses are allowable; and
                 (f) If management activities are beneficial to the Florida bonnet
                bat and its habitat.
                 (9) Whether we could improve or modify our approach to designating
                critical habitat in any way to provide for greater public participation
                and understanding or to better accommodate public concerns and
                comments.
                 Because we will consider all comments and information we receive
                during the comment period, our final designation may differ from this
                proposal. Based on the new information we receive (and any comments on
                that new information), our final designation may not include all areas
                proposed, may include some additional areas, and may exclude some areas
                if we find the benefits of exclusion outweigh the benefits of
                inclusion. Such final decisions would be a logical outgrowth of this
                proposal, as long as: (1) We base the decisions on the best scientific
                and commercial data available and take into consideration the relevant
                impacts; (2) we articulate a rational connection between the facts
                found and the conclusions made, including why we changed our
                conclusion; and (3) we base removal of any areas on a determination
                either that the area does not meet the definition of ``critical
                habitat'' or that the benefits of excluding the area will outweigh the
                benefits of including it in the designation. You may submit your
                comments and materials concerning this
                [[Page 35512]]
                proposed rule by one of the methods listed in ADDRESSES. We request
                that you send comments only by the methods described in ADDRESSES.
                 All comments submitted electronically via http://www.regulations.gov will be presented on the website in their entirety
                as submitted. For comments submitted via hard copy, we will post your
                entire comment--including your personal identifying information--on
                http://www.regulations.gov. You may request at the top of your document
                that we withhold personal information such as your street address,
                phone number, or email address from public review; however, we cannot
                guarantee that we will be able to do so.
                 Comments and materials we receive, as well as supporting
                documentation we used in preparing this proposed rule, will be
                available for public inspection on http://www.regulations.gov, or by
                appointment, during normal business hours, at the U.S. Fish and
                Wildlife Service, South Florida Ecological Services Field Office (see
                FOR FURTHER INFORMATION CONTACT).
                Previous Federal Actions
                 Federal actions for the Florida bonneted bat prior to October 4,
                2012, are outlined in our proposed listing rule for the bat (77 FR
                60750), which was published on that date. On October 2, 2013, after
                consideration of available scientific information, and peer review and
                public comments on the proposed listing rule, we published a final rule
                listing the Florida bonneted bat as an endangered species (78 FR
                61004).
                Background
                 Critical habitat is defined in section 3 of the Act as:
                 (1) The specific areas within the geographical area occupied by the
                species, at the time it is listed in accordance with the Act, on which
                are found those physical or biological features
                 (a) Essential to the conservation of the species, and
                 (b) Which may require special management considerations or
                protection; and
                 (2) Specific areas outside the geographical area occupied by the
                species at the time it is listed, upon a determination that such areas
                are essential for the conservation of the species.
                 Conservation, as defined under section 3 of the Act, means to use
                and the use of all methods and procedures that are necessary to bring
                an endangered or threatened species to the point at which the measures
                provided pursuant to the Act are no longer necessary. Such methods and
                procedures include, but are not limited to, all activities associated
                with scientific resources management such as research, census, law
                enforcement, habitat acquisition and maintenance, propagation, live
                trapping, and transplantation, and, in the extraordinary case where
                population pressures within a given ecosystem cannot be otherwise
                relieved, may include regulated taking.
                 Critical habitat receives protection under section 7 of the Act
                through the requirement that Federal agencies ensure, in consultation
                with the Service, that any action they authorize, fund, or carry out is
                not likely to result in the destruction or adverse modification of
                critical habitat. The designation of critical habitat does not affect
                land ownership or establish a refuge, wilderness, reserve, preserve, or
                other conservation area. Such designation does not allow the government
                or public to access private lands. Such designation does not require
                implementation of restoration, recovery, or enhancement measures by
                non-Federal landowners. Where a landowner requests Federal agency
                funding or authorization for an action that may affect a listed species
                or critical habitat, the Federal agency would be required to consult
                with the Service under section 7(a)(2) of the Act. However, even if the
                Service were to conclude that the proposed activity would result in
                destruction or adverse modification of the critical habitat, the
                Federal action agency and the landowner are not required to abandon the
                proposed activity, or to restore or recover the species; instead, they
                must implement ``reasonable and prudent alternatives'' to avoid
                destruction or adverse modification of critical habitat.
                 Under the first prong of the Act's definition of critical habitat,
                areas within the geographical area occupied by the species at the time
                it was listed are included in a critical habitat designation if they
                contain physical or biological features (1) which are essential to the
                conservation of the species and (2) which may require special
                management considerations or protection. For these areas, critical
                habitat designations identify, to the extent known using the best
                scientific and commercial data available, those physical or biological
                features that are essential to the conservation of the species (such as
                space, food, cover, and protected habitat). In identifying those
                physical or biological features that occur in specific occupied areas,
                we focus on the specific features that are essential to support the
                life-history needs of the species, including, but not limited to, water
                characteristics, soil type, geological features, roost sites, prey,
                vegetation, symbiotic species, or other features. A feature may be a
                single habitat characteristic, or a more complex combination of habitat
                characteristics. Features may include habitat characteristics that
                support ephemeral or dynamic habitat conditions. Features may also be
                expressed in terms relating to principles of conservation biology, such
                as patch size, distribution distances, and connectivity.
                 Under the second prong of the Act's definition of critical habitat,
                we may designate critical habitat in areas outside the geographical
                area occupied by the species at the time it is listed, upon a
                determination that such areas are essential for the conservation of the
                species. On August 27, 2019, we published final revised regulations
                outlining the criteria for designating critical habitat (84 FR 45020).
                We stated that, when designating critical habitat, the Secretary will
                first evaluate areas occupied by the species. The Secretary will only
                consider unoccupied areas to be essential where a critical habitat
                designation limited to geographical areas occupied by the species would
                be inadequate to ensure the conservation of the species. In addition,
                for an unoccupied area to be considered essential, the Secretary must
                determine that there is a reasonable certainty both that the area will
                contribute to the conservation of the species and that the area
                contains one or more of those physical or biological features essential
                to the conservation of the species.
                 Section 4 of the Act requires that we designate critical habitat on
                the basis of the best scientific data available. Further, our Policy on
                Information Standards Under the Endangered Species Act (published in
                the Federal Register on July 1, 1994 (59 FR 34271)), the Information
                Quality Act (section 515 of the Treasury and General Government
                Appropriations Act for Fiscal Year 2001 (Pub. L. 106-554; H.R. 5658)),
                and our associated Information Quality Guidelines, provide criteria,
                establish procedures, and provide guidance to ensure that our decisions
                are based on the best scientific data available. They require our
                biologists, to the extent consistent with the Act and with the use of
                the best scientific data available, to use primary and original sources
                of information as the basis for recommendations to designate critical
                habitat.
                 When we are determining which areas should be designated as
                critical habitat,
                [[Page 35513]]
                our primary source of information is generally the information
                developed during the listing process for the species. Additional
                information sources may include any generalized conservation strategy,
                criteria, or outline that may have been developed for the species, the
                recovery plan for the species, articles in peer-reviewed journals,
                conservation plans developed by States and counties, scientific status
                surveys and studies, biological assessments, other unpublished
                materials, or experts' opinions or personal knowledge.
                 Habitat is dynamic, and species may move from one area to another
                over time. We recognize that critical habitat designated at a
                particular point in time may not include all of the habitat areas that
                we may later determine are necessary for the recovery of the species.
                For these reasons, a critical habitat designation does not signal that
                habitat outside the designated area is unimportant or may not be needed
                for recovery of the species. Areas that are important to the
                conservation of the species, both inside and outside the critical
                habitat designation, will continue to be subject to: (1) Conservation
                actions implemented under section 7(a)(1) of the Act, (2) regulatory
                protections afforded by the requirement in section 7(a)(2) of the Act
                for Federal agencies to ensure their actions are not likely to
                jeopardize the continued existence of any endangered or threatened
                species, and (3) section 9 of the Act's prohibitions on taking any
                individual of the species, including taking caused by actions that
                affect habitat. Federally funded or permitted projects affecting listed
                species outside their designated critical habitat areas may still
                result in jeopardy findings in some cases. These protections and
                conservation tools will continue to contribute to recovery of this
                species. Similarly, critical habitat designations made on the basis of
                the best available information at the time of designation will not
                control the direction and substance of future recovery plans, habitat
                conservation plans (HCPs), or other species conservation planning
                efforts if new information available at the time of these planning
                efforts calls for a different outcome.
                Prudency Determination
                 Section 4(a)(3) of the Act, as amended, and implementing
                regulations (50 CFR 424.12), require that, to the maximum extent
                prudent and determinable, the Secretary shall designate critical
                habitat at the time the species is determined to be an endangered or
                threatened species. Our regulations (50 CFR 424.12(a)(1)) state that
                the Secretary may, but is not required to, determine that a designation
                would not be prudent in the following circumstances:
                 (i) The species is threatened by taking or other human activity and
                identification of critical habitat can be expected to increase the
                degree of such threat to the species;
                 (ii) The present or threatened destruction, modification, or
                curtailment of a species' habitat or range is not a threat to the
                species, or threats to the species' habitat stem solely from causes
                that cannot be addressed through management actions resulting from
                consultations under section 7(a)(2) of the Act;
                 (iii) Areas within the jurisdiction of the United States provide no
                more than negligible conservation value, if any, for a species
                occurring primarily outside the jurisdiction of the United States;
                 (iv) No areas meet the definition of critical habitat; or
                 (v) The Secretary otherwise determines that designation of critical
                habitat would not be prudent based on the best scientific data
                available.
                 We find that none of the aforementioned factors above apply to the
                Florida bonneted bat. First, there is currently no imminent threat of
                take attributed to collection for commercial, recreational, scientific,
                or educational purposes (see Factor B, final listing rule (78 FR 61004,
                October 2, 2013)). However, humans often consider bats as ``nuisance''
                species and seek their removal when they occur in or around human
                dwellings or infrastructure (see Factor D and Factor E, final listing
                rule (78 FR 61004, October 2, 2013)). The Florida bonneted bat is at
                risk of take in the form of inadvertent or purposeful removal,
                displacement, and disturbance wherever it occurs in or near human
                dwellings or structures (see Factor D and Factor E, final listing rule
                (78 FR 61004, October 2, 2013)). Designation of critical habitat could
                result in an increased threat of taking of individuals in some areas,
                through publication of maps and a narrative description of specific
                habitat units in the Federal Register. However, this factor is not
                expected to appreciably increase the degree of threat to the species
                because it would presumably apply only to individuals under certain
                circumstances (e.g., where bats are roosting in or near human dwellings
                or structures and where humans are intolerant of bat presence) where
                risks from humans already exist. Therefore, identification and mapping
                of critical habitat are not expected to initiate new threats or
                significantly increase existing threats.
                 Additionally, while some threats to the species' habitat may stem
                from sea level rise or other effects of climate change that may not be
                addressed through management actions under section 7(a)(2), the Florida
                bonneted bat was listed as an endangered species due largely to both
                historical and ongoing habitat loss and degradation associated with
                development and agricultural practices. Therefore, actions causing this
                habitat loss and degradation may include those that can be addressed
                through management actions resulting from consultations under section
                7(a)(2) of the Act (e.g., loss of roost sites and foraging habitat,
                development associated with human population growth and agriculture;
                see especially Factor A and Factor E, final listing rule (78 FR 61004,
                October 2, 2013)).
                 Further, this species does not occur outside the United States, in
                fact its range is restricted to south and central Florida. Specific
                areas within this range meet the definition of critical habitat (see
                above), and the best scientific data available indicates a benefit of
                designating critical habitat.
                 The potential benefits of designation include: (1) Triggering
                consultation under section 7 of the Act in new areas for actions in
                which there may be a Federal nexus where it would not otherwise occur
                because, for example, it is or has become unoccupied or the occupancy
                is in question; (2) focusing conservation activities on the most
                essential features and areas; (3) providing educational benefits to
                State or county governments or private entities; and (4) reducing the
                inadvertent harm to the species caused by people.
                 Therefore, we find designation of critical habitat is prudent for
                the Florida bonneted bat.
                Critical Habitat Determinability
                 Our regulations at 50 CFR 424.12(a)(2) state that critical habitat
                is not determinable when one or both of the following situations exist:
                 (i) Data sufficient to perform required analyses are lacking, or
                 (ii) The biological needs of the species are not sufficiently well
                known to identify any area that meets the definition of ``critical
                habitat.''
                 In our proposed listing rule (77 FR 60750, October 4, 2012), we
                found that critical habitat was not determinable because the biological
                needs of the species were not sufficiently well known to permit
                identification of areas as critical habitat. Our final listing rule (78
                FR 61004, October 2, 2013), summarized much of the new information and
                data that had been
                [[Page 35514]]
                obtained following publication of the proposed listing rule. We
                announced that we would continue to work closely with researchers,
                agencies, and other partners to seek new information about the species
                and its habitat needs to determine its critical habitat.
                 Since that time, we have reviewed the available information
                pertaining to the biological needs of the species and habitat
                characteristics where the species is located. Substantial new
                scientific information has been obtained by researchers, agencies,
                conservation organizations, industry, and other partners. Where
                information gaps on the Florida bonneted bat remain, we rely on
                available information on other Eumops, other molossids (free-tailed
                bats), and other comparable bat species. To fulfill the requirements of
                the Act, we are now proposing the designation of critical habitat for
                the Florida bonneted bat.
                Physical or Biological Features
                 In accordance with section 3(5)(A)(i) of the Act and regulations at
                50 CFR 424.12(b), in determining which areas within the geographical
                area occupied by the species at the time of listing to designate as
                critical habitat, we consider the physical or biological features
                (PBFs) that are essential to the conservation of the species and which
                may require special management considerations or protection. The
                regulations at 50 CFR 424.02 define ``physical or biological features
                essential to the conservation of the species'' as the features that
                occur in specific areas and that are essential to support the life-
                history needs of the species, including, but not limited to, water
                characteristics, soil type, geological features, sites, prey,
                vegetation, symbiotic species, or other features. A feature may be a
                single habitat characteristic, or a more complex combination of habitat
                characteristics. Features may include habitat characteristics that
                support ephemeral or dynamic habitat conditions. Features may also be
                expressed in terms relating to principles of conservation biology, such
                as patch size, distribution distances, and connectivity.
                 For example, physical features might include gravel of a particular
                size required for spawning, alkali soil for seed germination,
                protective cover for migration, or susceptibility to flooding or fire
                that maintains necessary early-successional habitat characteristics.
                Biological features might include prey species, forage grasses,
                specific kinds or ages of trees for roosting or nesting, symbiotic
                fungi, or a particular level of nonnative species consistent with
                conservation needs of the listed species. The features may also be
                combinations of habitat characteristics and may encompass the
                relationship between characteristics or the necessary amount of a
                characteristic needed to support the life history of the species. In
                considering whether features are essential to the conservation of the
                species, the Service may consider an appropriate quality, quantity, and
                spatial and temporal arrangement of habitat characteristics in the
                context of the life-history needs, condition, and status of the
                species. These characteristics include, but are not limited to, space
                for individual and population growth and for normal behavior; food,
                water, air, light, minerals, or other nutritional or physiological
                requirements; cover or shelter; sites for breeding, reproduction, or
                rearing (or development) of offspring; and habitats that are protected
                from disturbance.
                 In general, important and basic components of bat conservation
                include: Protection of roosting habitat; protection of foraging
                habitat; and protection of the prey base (Humphrey 1975, pp. 321-346;
                Fenton 1997, entire; Pierson 1998, pp. 309-325; O'Donnell 2001, entire;
                Agosta 2002, pp. 188-193; Sparks et al. 2005, entire; Knight and Jones
                2009, entire; Hagen and Sabo 2011, p. 759). Both the amount and spatial
                distribution of roosting and foraging habitat likely influence the
                survival and reproduction of Florida bonneted bats. Successful
                dispersal is likely essential to maintaining genetic and demographic
                connections among populations across the range of the species.
                 The ecology and long-term habitat requirements of the Florida
                bonneted bat are not fully understood (Robson 1989, p. 2; Robson et al.
                1989, p. 81; Belwood 1992, p. 219; Timm and Genoways 2004, p. 859;
                Braun de Torrez et al. 2016, p. 240; 2018, p. 1121; Ober et al. 2016,
                p. 1; Bailey et al. 2017a, entire). Habitat for the bat mainly consists
                of foraging areas and roosting sites, including artificial structures.
                As of May 2019, researchers had found 19 natural roost sites in live
                trees and snags and determined that 6 roost trees had fallen or were
                too damaged for future use by bats, 3 were confirmed active, 3 were
                inactive, and 7 were unknown (Braun de Torrez, pers. comm. 2019a). Only
                very limited information on historical sites is available. Recent
                information on habitat has been obtained largely through: Acoustical
                surveys, designed to detect and record bat echolocation calls; limited
                tracking using radio-transmitters, GPS satellite tags, and other
                techniques; and other studies (e.g., guano (excrement) analysis) (see
                Life History and Habitat, final listing rule (78 FR 61004, October 2,
                2013)).
                 The Florida bonneted bat uses forests and a variety of other
                natural and developed areas, within south, southwest, and south-central
                Florida (see Life History, Habitat, and table 1, final listing rule (78
                FR 61004, October 2, 2013)). They have been recorded in a wide array of
                habitat types, including: Pine flatwoods, pine rocklands, cypress,
                hardwood hammocks, mangroves, wetlands, rivers, lakes, ponds, canals,
                other natural areas, rural and agriculture lands, including groves,
                tropical gardens, crop-based agriculture; as well as residential and
                urban areas (Arwood, pers. comm., 2008a-b, 2012a, 2013a-c, 2014a-d;
                Marks and Marks 2008a, pp. 13-14; 2008b, pp. 2-5; 2008c, pp. 1-28;
                2012, pp. 1-22; Smith 2010, entire; Snow, pers. comm., 2011a-b, 2012a-
                g, 2013; in litt. 2012; Owen, pers. comm., 2012; Rau, pers. comm. 2012;
                Maehr 2013, entire; Maehr, pers. comm., 2013a-b; Relish, pers. comm.,
                2013; Ridgley, pers. comm., 2013a-d; 2014a-c; Scofield, pers. comm.,
                2013a-f; Smith, pers. comm., 2013; Ober 2015, p. 3; Braun de Torrez,
                pers. comm., 2015a; Braun de Torrez et al. 2016, entire; Bailey et al.
                2017a, entire). Florida bonneted bats at Big Cypress National Park
                (BCNP) are generally more active near places with permanent open water
                (Arwood, pers. comm., 2013c). At Florida Panther National Wildlife
                Refuge (FPNWR), the species uses forested areas, open water, and
                wetlands (Maehr 2013, entire).
                 We used a series of Geographical Information Systems (GIS) analyses
                to examine all available location data associated with Florida bonneted
                bat presences from 2003 through 2014 (i.e., confirmed recorded call
                data (taken through acoustical devices), audible call data (heard by
                experts), and occupied bat houses) and land use/land coverages to
                better understand habitat use as described in the PBF discussion below
                (see also Habitat Analyses under Criteria Used to Identify Critical
                Habitat, below). Examining land coverages within 1.6 km (1 mi) around
                all confirmed presences suggested that wetland forest (35 percent),
                open freshwater wetland (16 percent), and wet shrub (11 percent) were
                the predominant habitat types used. A similar analysis using presence
                data from natural areas only and examining land covers within this same
                distance suggested that wetland forest (40 percent), open freshwater
                wetland (18 percent), wet shrub (13 percent), upland forest (11
                percent), and upland shrub (5 percent) were the predominant habitat
                types used. Examination of habitat use
                [[Page 35515]]
                in separate geographical regions (i.e., west, southwest, southeast, and
                north-central Florida) reinforced the finding that forests are
                important habitat types, but suggested differences between geographic
                regions. For example, Florida bonneted bats may rely on wetland forests
                for roosting habitat in Collier County, but may rely on more upland
                forests for roosting in Charlotte County, where conditions are
                generally drier. Analysis of land covers within 1.6 km (1 mi) of the
                first known natural roost site (at Avon Park Air Force Range in Polk
                County) suggested that upland forest (61 percent) and upland shrub (30
                percent) were key land cover types for roosting.
                 The analyses of land cover use described above were conducted
                shortly after the species' listing. New presence data, collected after
                these analyses through 2019, were found to be consistent with these
                earlier results.
                Space for Individual and Population Growth and for Normal Behavior
                 At the time of listing, core areas for the Florida bonneted bat
                were identified that included areas with consistent use by, or repeated
                detections of, the species and thereby assumed to possess
                characteristics fundamental to the species' ecology and be important
                for conservation and recovery (see detailed discussion under Core Areas
                in the final listing rule (78 FR 61004, October 2, 2013)). These areas,
                representing the most important sites for the bat known at the time,
                are located within Charlotte, Lee, Collier, Monroe, and Miami-Dade
                Counties. Polk and Okeechobee Counties were also identified in the
                final listing rule as being occupied, but were not considered core
                areas, primarily because we lacked adequate survey information at the
                time. We now consider Polk County to be a core area based on several
                roost sites discovered at APAFR after listing (see Cover or Shelter,
                below; Angell and Thompson 2015, entire; Webb, pers. comm. 2018b;
                Myers, pers. comm. 2018a). New survey and life history information
                further support the identification of these core areas as those that
                are important for conservation and recovery of the Florida bonneted
                bat. We also identified these areas as important to the species in its
                recovery outline (a precursor to a recovery plan) (Service 2019, p. 2).
                Conservation of bat habitat within these core areas is necessary to
                ensure the species maintains sufficient resiliency, redundancy, and
                representation. As such, we consider suitable habitat within these core
                areas (i.e., Polk, Charlotte, Lee, Collier, Monroe, and Miami-Dade
                Counties) to be essential to the conservation of the Florida bonneted
                bat.
                 The Florida bonneted bat needs suitable roosting habitat (for
                shelter, to rear young, for protection from predators) with limited
                disturbance, suitable foraging habitat, sufficient prey base (to meet
                its daily and seasonal dietary requirements and energy demands), and
                opportunities to disperse, exchange information, find mates, and
                reproduce for population growth. While much has been learned since
                listing about the species' roosting preferences, foraging behavior,
                habitat affinities, dispersal capabilities, and home ranges, not all
                aspects of these are clearly understood. In the largest and most
                comprehensive acoustic study undertaken for this species, bonneted bats
                were detected in all land cover types investigated, including the four
                major categories of uplands, wetlands, agricultural, and developed
                lands (Bailey et al. 2017a, entire).
                 In an analysis of land cover types within 1.6 km (1 mi) of the
                first four roosts discovered, we found high percentages of forested
                habitats around each of the four roost sites examined. As indicated
                above, land covers surrounding the roost site at APAFR in Polk County
                comprise 61 percent upland forest and 30 percent upland shrub. In
                Collier County, land cover types surrounding the roost at Fakahatchee
                Strand Preserve State Park (FSPSP) are 97 percent wetland forest and 2
                percent wetland shrub. Those surrounding the BCNP roost are 49 percent
                upland forest, 36 percent wetland forest, 11 percent wetland shrub, and
                4 percent freshwater wetlands. Similarly, land cover types surrounding
                the FPNWR roost comprise 48 percent upland forest, 47 percent wetland
                forest, 3 percent open freshwater wetlands, and 2 percent shrub. Using
                this information regarding land cover types associated with roost
                sites, we identified specific habitat types within these cover types
                that are essential to the conservation of the Florida bonneted bat.
                 In natural areas, wetland and upland forests, open freshwater
                wetlands, wetland and upland shrub, and open water appear to be key
                habitat types. Natural areas provide better overall habitat (e.g.,
                adequate foraging habitat, less disturbance, more opportunities to
                disperse) than urban areas, and limited information suggests the
                species uses forested areas for roosting in natural habitats (see Cover
                or Shelter, below). In general, open freshwater and wetlands, and other
                open natural habitats provide prime foraging areas for bats, providing
                important sources of water, concentrations of prey, and conditions and
                structure for finding and capturing prey. Bonneted bats use a
                ``hawking'' foraging method (i.e., pursue and catch prey in flight),
                and are capable of traveling at fast speeds due to their specialized
                wing morphology. Molossids generally incur high metabolic costs while
                hunting aerial insects and are less suited for maneuvering in more
                confined spaces due to their long and narrow wings; efficient foraging
                may be restricted to open spaces, shortly after sunset when numbers of
                high-flying insects are sufficiently high (Voigt and Holderied 2012,
                pp. 415, 423). Consequently, this species relies on speed and agility
                to catch target insects in the absence of background clutter, such as
                dense vegetation (Simmons et al. 1979, entire; Belwood 1992, p. 221;
                Best et al. 1997, p. 5; Voigt and Holderied 2012, entire). Foraging in
                open spaces, bonneted bats use echolocation to detect prey at
                relatively long range and high above the ground (Belwood 1992, p. 221;
                Best et al. 1997, p. 5; Marks and Marks 2008a, p. 5; Mora and Torres
                2008, p. 7). Due to the species' physiology, we have identified open
                areas of freshwater and natural habitats as a feature essential to the
                conservation of this bat.
                 Limited data (i.e., from three bats, tracked for three nights each)
                indicated that bonneted bats generally stayed within 1.6 km (1 mi) of
                the bat houses on Babcock-Webb Wildlife Management Area (WMA) but had
                longer foraging bouts each evening, ranging from 2.4 to 11.3 km (1.5 to
                7 mi) (Braun de Torrez, pers. comm. 2015a; Ober 2015, p. 3). While at
                the time of listing, foraging and dispersal distances and home range
                sizes for the Florida bonneted bat had not been studied in great detail
                (Gillies, in litt. 2012; G. Marks, pers. comm. 2012; Ober, in litt.
                2012; Gore, pers. comm. 2013), additional studies have provided
                valuable insights (Ober 2016, entire; Webb, pers. comm. 2018a-b). The
                Florida bonneted bat flies considerable distances; individuals foraged
                far (39 km (24 mi) maximum) from capture sites and covered long
                distances in one night (91 km (56 mi) maximum) (Ober 2016, p. 3; Webb,
                pers. comm. 2018 2012;b). Given this, it seems likely that foraging
                areas may be located fairly long distances from roost sites (Ober, in
                litt. 2012). Further, the finding of only a few call sequences with
                substantial effort in close proximity to one known occupied active
                natural roost also suggests that bonneted bats may travel substantial
                distances from roosts and have very large home ranges. This finding
                aligns with relative
                [[Page 35516]]
                sizes of home ranges of comparable and related species (Vaughan 1959,
                p. 18; Marques et al. 2004, entire; Corbett et al. 2008, entire; Rhodes
                and Catterall 2008, entire; Bonaccorso 2010, p. 11; Koob 2012, p. 2;
                Noer et al. 2012, entire; Ober, pers. comm. 2013). Based upon these
                characteristics and data, bonneted bats are expected to routinely range
                long distances, up to 24 km (15 mi) or more on foraging bouts, similar
                to the Underwood's mastiff bat (E. underwoodi) in Arizona (Tibbitts et
                al. 2002, p. 11; Gore, pers. comm. 2013). Consequently, we consider
                divergent areas for foraging and roosting as essential to the
                conservation of this bat.
                 Dispersal is important for bats for inbreeding avoidance,
                exploiting available resources, and maintaining a persisting population
                through changing landscapes. This aspect of their life history is
                particularly difficult to study, as the species is generally secretive,
                flies, and is nocturnal (Petit and Mayer 1999, p. 1717). Evidence of
                temporary emigration and disappearance of juveniles after 8 months
                suggests Florida bonneted bats disperse from natal roosts (Bailey et
                al. 2017b, p. 556). More research on the bat's specific needs during
                dispersal is needed; however, geographic distance and ecological
                barriers (i.e., habitat fragmentation) are generally known to limit
                population expansion and gene flow within and among populations, and
                can block species movement required to adjust to environmental and
                habitat changes due to the dynamic nature of ecological systems, as
                well as habitat loss and climate change (Hilty et al. 2006, pp. 108-
                112). Consequently, we consider connectivity of suitable habitat
                necessary for natural and adaptive movements and thereby essential to
                the conservation of this species.
                Food, Water, Air, Light, Minerals, or Other Nutritional or
                Physiological Requirements
                 The Florida bonneted bat's precise foraging habits and long-term
                requirements are unknown (Belwood 1992, p. 219). However, active year-
                round and aseasonally polyestrous (i.e., having more than one period of
                estrous in a year, not restricted to one season) (Timm and Genoways
                2004, p. 859; Marks and Marks 2008a, p. 9; Ober et al. 2016, entire),
                the Florida bonneted bat likely needs constant sources and/or multiple
                sources of prey to support its high metabolism. Energy demands of the
                bonneted bat probably fluctuate seasonally (e.g., assumed higher
                demands during cold weather as it does not have periods of torpor (a
                state of decreased physiological activity in an animal, including
                decreased body temperature, heart rate, and metabolism)) and during
                sensitive times (e.g., maternity, nursery, supporting offspring). The
                maternity season is a time of particular sensitivity, with increased
                energy demands and risks as females leave young in roosts while making
                multiple foraging excursions to support lactation (Kurta et al. 1989a,
                entire; Kurta et al. 1990, entire; Kunz et al. 1995, entire; Marks and
                Marks 2008a, pp. 8-9; Ober et al. 2016, entire). Exploitation of
                insects in patches that yield high-energy returns for pregnancy and
                lactation is important (Kunz et al. 1995, p. 412). Reduced insect
                populations in urban areas may make it difficult for females to
                successfully raise offspring to maturity (Kurta et al. 1990, entire;
                Kurta and Teramino 1992, p. 260).
                 Most insectivorous bats eat large quantities of insects (Ross 1967,
                entire; Black 1974, entire; Kunz 1974, entire; Kunz et al. 1995,
                entire; Kurta and Whitaker 1998, entire; Lee and McCracken 2002, pp.
                306-313; 2005, entire; Leelapaibul et al. 2005, entire; Kunz et al.
                2011, entire). Insectivorous bat activity and diversity are strongly
                correlated with arthropod abundance (Racey and Swift 1985, pp. 210-211,
                214; Wickramasinghe et al. 2004, entire; Wickramasinghe et al. 2003,
                pp. 987-992), suggesting that bats seek out areas of concentrated prey
                sources (Kunz et al. 2011, p. 5). Foraging behavior is tied in part to
                insect abundance, availability, and density (Anthony and Kunz 1977,
                entire; Racey and Swift 1985, p. 212; Wickramasinghe et al. 2003, pp.
                987-992; Wickramasinghe et al. 2004, entire). Exploitation of insects
                in patches that yield high-energy returns appears to be important for
                meeting the energy needs associated with prolonged flights as well as
                pregnancy and lactation (Kunz et al. 1995, p. 412). In general, bats
                foraging from continuous flight must encounter prey at relatively high
                rates and successfully attack many individual items (Fenton 1990, p.
                416). Since Florida bonneted bats are thought to employ this feeding
                strategy, areas with higher insect abundance, more (multiple) prey
                sources, and diverse natural habitats that produce prey diversity are
                essential for suitable foraging habitat.
                 Like other molossids (e.g., Brazilian free-tailed bats (Tadarida
                brasiliensis)), the species may be a generalist predator, capable of
                opportunistically exploiting available resources (McCracken et al.
                2012, entire). Limited information from guano analyses indicates
                Florida bonneted bats feed on flying insects of the following orders:
                Coleoptera (beetles), Diptera (flies), Hemiptera (true bugs),
                Lepidoptera (moths), and Trichoptera (caddisflies) (Belwood 1981, p.
                412; 1992, p. 220; Marks 2013, entire; Marks and Marks 2015, pp. 2-3).
                Like other large molossids, the Florida bonneted bat's physiological
                characteristics (e.g., large size, broad jaws, big teeth, large ears)
                and lower-frequency echolocation make it well-equipped for finding and
                taking relatively larger insects and harder prey items (Freeman 1979,
                entire; 1981, pp. 166-173; Obrist et al. 1993, entire; Aguirre et al.
                2003, p. 207; Timm and Genoways 2004, pp. 855-857; Mora and Torres
                2008, p. 12).
                 It is not clear if insect availability is limiting or sufficient;
                however, if the Florida bonneted bat is similar in its needs to other
                insectivorous bats, then reduced prey abundance or density could
                negatively affect the species, affecting survival, growth, and
                reproduction. We find that foraging habitat sufficient to support
                insect populations and the seasonal nutritional needs of the bat are
                essential to its conservation. Protecting natural habitats conducive to
                insect diversity (Marks 2013, p. 2) is also essential to the Florida
                bonneted bat's survival.
                 Sources of drinking water are important for most insectivorous bat
                species (Kurta et al. 1989b, entire; 1990, pp. 59, 63; Adams and Hayes
                2008, pp. 1, 6). Water sources and wetlands also provide important
                sources and concentrations of prey (Belwood and Fenton 1976, entire;
                Swift and Racey 1983, entire; Barclay 1991, pp. 174-176; Brigham et al.
                1992, entire; Sullivan et al. 1993, entire; Racey et al. 1998, pp. 200-
                201; Russo and Jones 2003, pp. 197, 201; Nam et al. 2012, p. 1095;
                Wickramasinghe et al. 2004, p. 1289; Fukui et al. 2006, entire).
                 Water sources (for drinking, prey, and structure) are important
                habitat components for the Florida bonneted bat. This species forages
                over ponds, streams, and wetlands and drink when flying over open water
                (Marks and Marks 2008c, p. 4; 2008d, p. 3). For example, in BCNP the
                vast majority of Florida bonneted bat calls were recorded in 2014 at
                one remote pond surrounded by wetland forest (Arwood, pers. comm.
                2014a-c). At Picayune Strand State Forest (PSSF), all sites where the
                species has been detected were located near canals (Smith, pers. comm.
                2013). At FPNWR, the highest detection of Florida bonneted bat calls
                occurred in areas with the largest amount of open water (Maehr 2013,
                pp. 7-11; Maehr, pers. comm. 2013a-c). In the Miami area (Richmond pine
                [[Page 35517]]
                rocklands (Zoo Miami, Larry and Penny Thompson Park, and the Martinez
                Preserve)), the species has been detected in a variety of habitat
                types, but peak activity occurred in areas of artificial freshwater
                lakes adjacent to intact pine rocklands (Ridgley, pers. comm. 2013a-d).
                 We find that open water and wetlands provide drinking water, open
                foraging areas, and concentrations of prey that are essential to the
                conservation of the species. During dry seasons, bats become more
                dependent on remaining ponds, streams, and wetland areas for foraging
                purposes, making these precious resources essential (Marks and Marks
                2008c, p. 4; 2008d, p. 3). Because the Florida bonneted bat, like other
                Eumops, appears to be confined to foraging in open spaces due to its
                wing morphology (Norberg and Rayner 1987, pp. 399-400; Voigt and
                Holderied 2012, entire), larger water bodies and more open wetlands in
                general may be better foraging habitat, structurally, than smaller,
                more confined areas.
                 The Florida bonneted bat's physiological or behavioral responses to
                abiotic factors, such as climate and artificial lighting, have not been
                specifically studied. Needs and requirements may be similar to those
                for other insectivorous species in semitropical or temperate
                environments. Light levels (and other environmental factors) trigger,
                in part, both the activity of bats and insects. Of factors influencing
                times of emergence in temperate bats, the overwhelming conclusion has
                been that light is the most important factor (Kunz 1974, p. 707).
                Artificial lighting (i.e., ecological light pollution) can have
                demonstrable effects on behavioral and population ecology of organisms,
                including bats and insects (Longcore and Rich 2004, pp. 193-195; see
                Factor E, Ecological Light Pollution, final listing rule (78 FR 61004,
                October 2, 2013)). Therefore, we find that natural habitats that are
                largely devoid of artificial lighting are likely most conducive to
                bonneted bat conservation.
                 Similarly, temperature requirements and tolerances for the Florida
                bonneted bat are not fully understood. The species is active year-round
                and considered semi-tropical (Ober et al. 2016, entire). Bailey et al.
                (2017a, p. 1589) detected bonneted bats at the northern portion of
                their study area (i.e., Polk and Osceola Counties) and suggested future
                surveys in additional counties to help determine the limit of the
                northern extent of the range. They found low probabilities of
                occurrence of bonneted bats in areas where historical mean minimum
                temperatures dropped below 15 degrees Celsius ([deg]C) (59 degrees
                Fahrenheit ([deg]F)) and suggested that the species may be limited to
                southern Florida due to temperature (Bailey et al. 2017a, p. 1591). At
                this time, the most northern known roost sites are located at APAFR and
                vicinity (Angell and Thompson 2015, entire; Webb, pers. comm., 2018b;
                Myers, pers. comm., 2018a). Mean monthly temperatures at this location
                range from 15 to 28 [deg]C (60-83 [deg]F), with an average low of 8.3
                [deg]C (47 [deg]F) (January) and an average high of 33.9 [deg]C (93
                [deg]F) (July). Prolonged cold temperatures resulted in bonneted bat
                mortalities at one known colony site in North Fort Myers, Florida,
                during a severe cold snap in 2010 (Trokey, pers. comm. 2010a-b; 2012a)
                (see also Factor E, final listing rule (78 FR 61004, October 2, 2013)).
                Limited data at survey sites in south Florida indicated reduced bat
                activity under conditions of lower ambient temperatures (Arwood, pers.
                comm. 2014e). In general, molossids that inhabit the warmer temperate
                and subtropical zones incur much higher energetic costs for
                thermoregulation during cold weather events than those inhabiting
                northern regions (Arlettaz et al. 2000, pp. 1004-1014; see also Factor
                E, final listing rule (78 FR 61004, October 2, 2013)). As a result, we
                recognize the species' requirement of subtropical climate conditions
                for its long-term persistence.
                 This species is suspected to seasonally vary its use of the
                northern and southern extent of its known range. This may relate to
                temperature sensitivity (as described above), different nutritional
                needs during peak reproductive seasons, or changes in prey
                availability. Florida bonneted bat detection is positively influenced
                by Julian date and minimum temperature of the survey night; thus,
                future monitoring efforts should be focused on warm nights later in the
                spring to maximize detection probabilities (Bailey et al. 2017a, pp.
                1589, 1591). Florida bonneted bats were also ``more common in areas
                with higher historical mean annual rainfall but seemed to prefer areas
                with lower rainfall during the spring'' (Bailey et al. 2017a, p. 1591).
                The authors concluded that higher detection probabilities observed were
                likely a result of increased insect abundance due to increased
                temperatures, humidity, and precipitation influencing the bats'
                activity (Bailey et al. 2017a, p. 1591). Therefore, we find that
                seasonal differences and these other climatological conditions, in
                addition to temperature, likely influence the species' distribution,
                habitat requirements, and foraging opportunities, thereby affecting its
                conservation. Differences in these environmental conditions may occur
                seasonally or on finer temporal scales.
                Cover or Shelter
                 Bats spend over half their lives within their roost environments
                (Kunz 1982, p. 1). Roosting sites for bats generally include both day
                and night roosts, and sites for various uses (e.g., seasonal,
                maternity, nursery, bachelor roosts). Roosts provide sites for resting,
                digestion of food, social interaction, mating, rearing of young, as
                well as providing microclimate stability, protection from predators,
                and protection from sunlight and adverse weather (Kunz 1982, entire;
                Ormsbee et al. 2007, pp. 130-135; Marks and Marks 2008c, p. 4; Dechmann
                et al. 2010, pp. 1-7) (see also Sites for Breeding, Reproduction, or
                Rearing (or Development) of Offspring, below). In addition, roosts
                function as areas where information is shared among colony members for
                many species of bats (e.g., the velvety free-tailed bat (Molossus
                molossus), see Dechmann et al. 2010, entire; Bohn, in litt. 2012).
                 The availability of suitable roosts is an important limiting factor
                for most bat species (Humphrey 1975, pp. 341-343). Suitable natural
                roost sites in south Florida appear limited, and competition for
                available tree cavities among native and non-native wildlife may be
                greater now than historically (see Factor E, Competition for Tree
                Cavities, final listing rule (78 FR 61004, October 2, 2013); also
                Belwood 1992, p. 220; Kern, Jr., in litt. 2012; Ludlow, in litt. 2012).
                Consequently, retaining suitable roost structures (trees and snags with
                cavities or loose bark) throughout the species' range is fundamental to
                this species' conservation (Braun de Torrez et al. 2016, p. 240).
                Specifically, more roost structures may be needed to support dispersing
                subadult males (Ober et al. 2016, p. 7).
                 Bats in south Florida roost primarily in trees and human-made
                structures (Marks and Marks 2008a, p. 8). Bonneted bats are closely
                associated with forested areas because of their tree-roosting habits,
                and old, mature trees are considered essential roosting sites (Robson
                1989, p. 2; Belwood 1992, p. 220; Eger 1999, p. 132). However, specific
                information concerning roost sites was limited at the time of listing
                (see Use of Forests and Other Natural Areas, Habitat, and Life History,
                final listing rule (78 FR 61004, October 2, 2013)). One of the few
                historical roost sites used by a small colony of Florida
                [[Page 35518]]
                bonneted bats was a longleaf pine (Pinus palustris) cavity that had
                been excavated by a red-cockaded woodpecker (RCW) (Picoides borealis)
                and later enlarged by a pileated woodpecker (Dryocopus pileatus); the
                cavity was 4.6 meters (m) (15.1 feet (ft)) above the ground (Belwood
                1981, p. 412).
                 More recent information suggests that the Florida bonneted bat may
                prefer large pines (live and dead) with woodpecker activity for
                potential roosting, at least in some areas (Braun de Torrez, pers.
                comm. 2019b; Webb, pers. comm. 2017a). However, other large, tall trees
                with suitable structure (e.g., hollows, loose bark) may also be
                suitable. The species has also been reported to use leaf shafts of
                royal palm (Roystonea regia) (Belwood 1992, p. 219) and rocky crevices
                and outcrops on the ground (Timm and Genoways 2004, p. 860; see
                Habitat, final listing rule (78 FR 61004, October 2, 2013)). Similar
                roosting habitats (i.e., use of tree cavities, foliage of palms,
                crevices) have been reported for closely related species in other areas
                (Robson 1989, p. 2; Belwood 1992, pp. 219-220).
                 Since the species was listed in 2013, a total of 19 natural roosts
                have been located, of which 12 were found in pines (Angell and Thompson
                2015, entire; Webb, pers. comm. 2017a; Braun de Torrez, pers. comm.
                2019b). As of May 2019, of the 19 roosts found, 6 have fallen or are
                too damaged to house bats; however, we have used data collected from
                all known natural roosts to identify common essential features (e.g.,
                tree height, tree size, cavity height, tree species) (Scofield, pers.
                comm. 2013g-i; Angell and Thompson 2015, p. 185; Braun de Torrez, pers.
                comm. 2015b, 2016, 2019a-b; Braun de Torrez et al. 2016, p. 239;
                Hershberger, pers. comm. 2017; Webb, pers. comm. 2017a; Aldredge, pers.
                comm. 2018; Miller, pers. comm. 2018; Pitcher, pers. comm. 2019). Based
                on these natural roosts, Florida bonneted bats appear to roost in trees
                greater than 10 m (33 ft) in height, greater than 20 cm (8 in) diameter
                at breast height, with cavities greater than 5 m (16 ft) high off the
                ground (Braun de Torrez, pers. comm. 2019c).
                 The Florida bonneted bat also uses non-natural environments for
                roosting (see Use of Parks, Residential Areas, and other Urban Areas,
                final listing rule (78 FR 61004, October 2, 2013)) and artificial
                structures, particularly bat houses (Marks and Marks 2008a, p. 8; Morse
                2008, entire; Trokey, pers. comm. 2012a-b; see Use of Artificial
                Structures (Bat Houses), final listing rule (78 FR 61004, October 2,
                2013)). Many of the known active roosting sites for the species are bat
                houses (two at a private residence in Lee County; three to seven
                separate roosts at Babcock-Webb WMA in Charlotte County; seven at or
                near Zoo Miami in Miami-Dade County) (Myers, pers. comm. 2013a-b,
                2014a-d; 2015; Gore, pers. comm. 2017, 2018; Ridgley, pers. comm.
                2019).
                 Bonneted bats have also been found roosting in abandoned and
                occupied human dwellings in Miami-Dade County (Bohn, pers. comm. 2014;
                Zambrano, pers. comm. 2015; Hosein and Salazar 2017, entire). In 2017,
                several roosts were found by tracking tagged bonneted bats; all of
                these were located in abandoned and occupied houses in urban Miami
                (Webb, pers. comm. 2017b-e). Another roost was found by tracking a
                bonneted bat back to a 50 60-ft high utility pole in Polk County (Webb,
                pers. comm. 2017a). Historically, bonneted bats had been documented to
                use buildings and barrel tile roofs (Jennings 1958, p. 102; Belwood
                1992, pp. 219-220). In Coral Gables, tracked bonneted bats were using
                utility poles, chimneys, pine trees, and royal palms, but were not
                found using barrel tile roosts in limited observations (Gore et al.
                2015, entire). Particularly in urban and suburban areas (see Use of
                Parks, Residential Areas, and other Urban Areas, final listing rule (78
                FR 61004, October 2, 2013)), the Florida bonneted bat may use bridges,
                buildings, rock crevices, and other structures resembling natural
                molossid roosts (Wilkins 1989, pp. 5-6; Milner et al. 1990, p. 3; Best
                et al. 1996, p. 5; Best et al. 1997, p. 4; Keeley and Tuttle 1999, pp.
                9, 28; Avila-Flores and Fenton 2005, entire; Marks and Marks, pers.
                comm. 2008; Gore et al. 2015).
                 More research on the role of bat houses in the conservation of the
                species is needed (Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission
                (FWC) 2013, pp. 11-12). The use of such structures by the Florida
                bonneted bat may be beneficial in some locations, especially where
                cavity trees are limiting. However, artificial structures may not be
                sufficient replacements for natural roosts (e.g., existing dead or
                hollow trees) due to site fidelity and specific roosting requirements
                (Ormsbee et al. 2007, p. 145). Artificial structures may be more likely
                to be disturbed, may be more prone to vandalism, and may or may not be
                maintained.
                 The Florida bonneted bat is suspected to have high roost site
                fidelity. For example, one natural roost at APAFR remained active (with
                some periods of inactivity, once due to a nesting northern flicker
                taking over the cavity) for more than 5 years (Scofield, pers. comm.
                2013g-h; 2014a-b; Angell and Thompson 2015, p. 186; Myers, pers. comm.
                2018b, Aldredge, pers. comm. 2019a). Several bat houses at Babcock-Webb
                WMA have been occupied by bonneted bats since 2008 (Myers, pers. comm.
                2013a), and a roost in an abandoned house remained active for 20 years
                (likely with some periods of inactivity), even after an exclusion was
                conducted (Bohn, pers. comm. 2014; Hosein, pers. comm. 2016; Webb,
                pers. comm. 2017d; Gore et al. 2015, p. 183). The loss of a roost site
                may cause greater hardship to this species than the loss of a roost
                site for other, less site-faithful species (Ober, in litt. 2012).
                 Roost sites are clearly vital resources for this species, and the
                protection of natural and artificial roost sites in natural areas is
                essential. Due to the dynamic nature of ecological processes (e.g.,
                growth and regeneration of forests), forests of different age-classes
                are needed to ensure that the bat continues to have sufficient roost
                sites over time. In forested and other natural areas, old, large,
                mature trees (live or dead) with cavities, hollows, or loose bark
                provide important natural roosts. Known active roosts include several
                artificial structures (bat houses), but their capacity to perform all
                functions of natural roosts is unknown. Therefore, we find that the
                characteristics and features of natural roost sites are essential for
                Florida bonneted bat conservation.
                Sites for Breeding, Reproduction, or Rearing (or Development) of
                Offspring
                 As with other aspects of Florida bonneted bat biology, precise site
                requirements and habitat conditions for successful reproduction and
                growth are not fully understood. Most natural behaviors related to
                breeding, reproduction, and carrying for young occur within the Florida
                bonneted bats' roosts. Optimal roosting habitat depends upon suitable
                structures (e.g., tree cavities and hollows) (see Cover or Shelter,
                above), but it is at least partly tied to other factors, such as
                position in the landscape (e.g., nearby foraging habitat, water
                sources) (see Space for Individual and Population Growth and for Normal
                Behavior, above). Access to sufficient foraging habitat is also
                critical for the rearing of young (Marks and Marks 2008c, p. 4; see
                Food, Water, Air, Light, Minerals, or Other Nutritional or
                Physiological Requirements, above).
                 Sites supporting the Florida bonneted bats' breeding activities
                appear to be required year-round (Timm and Genoways 2004, p. 859; Ober
                et al. 2016, p. 8; Bailey et al. 2017b, p. 556; see Life History, final
                listing rule (78 FR 61004, October 2, 2013); see Food,
                [[Page 35519]]
                Water, Air, Light, Minerals, or Other Nutritional or Physiological
                Requirements, above). Adults are reproductively active during all three
                capture sessions (August, December, and April), and non-volant (not
                capable of flying) pups were found in roosts from May through December
                (Ober et al. 2016, pp. 6, 8-9; Gore, pers. comm. 2017; Scofield, pers.
                comm. 2014b; Angell and Thompson 2015, p. 186; Myers, pers. comm.
                2018a; Ridgley, pers. comm. 2015). In the first work on providing
                demographic estimates for the Florida bonneted bat, Bailey et al.
                (2017b, entire) suggested that recruitment is occurring year-round.
                 This species' long reproductive season makes non-volant bonneted
                bats more vulnerable to disturbance for a greater portion of each year,
                compared to other bat species (Ober et al. 2016, p. 8). For example,
                Florida bonneted bat pups were considered to be very likely present in
                bat houses during April 16-August 15, and quite possibly present from
                August 15 through December 31 in bat houses at Babcock-Webb WMA (Gore,
                pers. comm. 2017). Pups were not likely to be present from January 1
                through April 15 (Gore, pers. comm. 2017). Based upon these data,
                flightless young bonneted bats are vulnerable to disturbance for nearly
                9 months of the year in the Charlotte County area. This duration may be
                further extended in southern portions of the range or curtailed in
                northern portions of the range.
                 Most roosting bats are sensitive to human disturbance (Kunz 1982,
                p. 32), and maternity colonies may be especially intolerant of
                disturbance (Harvey et al. 1999, p. 13; see Factor E, Inadvertent and
                Purposeful Impacts from Humans, final listing rule (78 FR 61004,
                October 2, 2013)). For many species, maternity roosts are commonly used
                as night roosts by lactating females and newly volant (capable of
                flying) young (see details in Kunz 1982, p. 39). Due to the apparent
                limitations in flight for pregnant and lactating females and newly
                volant young, retaining suitable night roosts and maternity roosts is
                especially important.
                 In addition, in a new study examining social organization at bat
                houses at Babcock-Webb WMA, researchers found the species roosted in
                relatively small groups, with an average size of 10 individuals, in a
                harem structure (Ober et al. 2016, p. 7). The finding of a harem
                structure is particularly relevant from a conservation standpoint for
                several reasons, as it suggests: (1) The importance of males and
                maintenance of social groups; (2) that disturbance of the roost at any
                time can alter social dynamics and impact reproductive success; (3)
                that augmenting the number of available small roost sites may be
                necessary to bolster populations (since harem structure may mean small
                colony sizes, defensible by a dominant male); and (4) additional roost
                structures may be necessary for dispersing sub-adult males attempting
                to establish new harems (Ober et al. 2016, p. 7). Based on the
                information outlined above, we find that suitable roosting habitat is a
                year-round necessity for the breeding and rearing of offspring and
                required for the conservation of this species.
                Habitats Protected From Disturbance or Otherwise Representative of the
                Historical Geographical and Ecological Distributions of the Species
                 The Florida bonneted bat occurs in habitats that are protected from
                human-generated disturbances. These include Federal, State, local, and
                private conservation lands and other private (non-conservation) lands
                that retain natural areas and implement conservation measures
                benefitting the species. Babcock-Webb WMA and APAFR are two examples of
                such areas, both supporting populations with known roosting and
                reproduction. These properties, each approximately 40,470 ha (100,000
                ac), represent relatively functional ecosystems, and buffer wildlife
                from human-related threats and threatening processes. The species does
                appear somewhat tolerant of some level of human disturbances, the
                extent to which is unknown. For example, APAFR is an active military
                base, where bonneted bats are exposed to disturbances such as periodic
                missions and training exercises, some within a mile of roosts
                (Aldredge, pers. comm. 2019b). Similarly, individuals occupying bat
                houses at Babcock-Webb WMA are exposed to, and apparently tolerant of,
                active land management and recreational activities (e.g., prescribed
                fire, hunting). The species also occurs in agricultural areas and in
                urban, suburban, and residential areas (see Use of Parks, Residential
                Areas, and Other Urban Areas, final listing rule (78 FR 61004, October
                2, 2013)). We conclude, however, that large patches of habitat, which
                are relatively free of human disturbances, are necessary for the
                stability of core populations, and therefore essential to the
                conservation of this species. Specifically, based on Florida bonneted
                bats' heavy use of Babcock-Webb WMA and APAFR, we consider areas of
                habitat 40,470 ha (100,000 ac) or greater as essential to the
                conservation of this species.
                 More specifically, the Florida bonneted bat is dependent upon tall,
                mature trees and dynamic forest processes (e.g., growth, decay,
                regeneration, openings in the canopy, natural fire regimes, and other
                disturbances such as storms that contribute to roosting structures or
                make habitat accessible). Healthy forested areas with trees of various
                age classes and natural processes (i.e., allowing for trees to grow,
                mature, decay, and regenerate) help provide the necessary continual
                supply of potential roosting structure (e.g., day roosts, night roosts,
                maternity sites). Other natural habitats with open or semi-open canopy,
                canopy gaps, and edges help provide open space and relatively
                uncluttered conditions conducive to foraging, commuting, and general
                flight. Natural habitat types with diverse plant communities help
                provide a sufficient prey base and conditions for foraging, dispersal,
                and other life-history functions. Both natural disturbances (e.g., fire
                and storms) and land management actions (e.g., prescribed fire) help
                maintain overall habitat suitability and suitable conditions (e.g.,
                structure). Braun de Torrez et al. (2018, entire) suggest that bats are
                attracted to increased availability of insect prey immediately
                following burns. Based upon their research, they suggest that
                prescribed fire can have short-term positive effects on bonneted bats
                and that restoring fire to fire-dependent forests may improve foraging
                habitat for the species (Braun de Torrez et al. 2018, entire).
                Therefore, we find that fire and other natural disturbance regimes
                maintain suitable habitat conditions and are essential to the
                conservation of this species.
                 Retaining natural habitats will become more important in the future
                with the anticipated habitat losses from development, climate change,
                and coastal squeeze, which occurs when habitat is pressed between
                rising sea levels and coastal development that prevents landward
                movement (see Factor A, Land Use Changes and Human Population Growth,
                Climate Change and Sea Level Rise, Alternative Future Landscape Models
                and Coastal Squeeze, final listing rule (78 FR 61004, October 2,
                2013)). The conditions of forests, wetlands, and other land covers are
                likely to be under increased development pressures and be affected by
                large-scale changes in climate in the future. Changing habitat
                conditions due to changes in climate and responses by humans may make
                the bonneted bat shift from its current range, possibly moving inland
                or north (Rebelo et al. 2010, entire; Sherwin et al. 2012, entire; S.
                Wolf and J. Lopez, in litt. 2012). One
                [[Page 35520]]
                model projects that the bonneted bat is likely to experience major
                range contraction both within Everglades National Park (ENP) and
                regionally by 2060 (Watling et al. 2014, p. 28). Similarly, work by
                Bailey et al. (2017a, entire) also suggests that predicted changes in
                land cover (i.e., urbanization of the majority of natural and
                agricultural lands in south, south-central, and southwest Florida) and
                climate will be threats to the species. We have attempted to account
                for these influences in our proposed designation of critical habitat by
                recognizing that habitat composition may change beyond the range of
                historical variation, and that climate changes may have unpredictable
                consequences for both peninsular Florida and bonneted bats. This
                proposed critical habitat designation recognizes that forest management
                and general land management practices that promote ecosystem health
                under changing climate conditions will be important for bonneted bat
                conservation.
                Summary of Essential Physical or Biological Features
                 We derived the specific PBFs essential for the Florida bonneted bat
                from observations and available studies of this species' habitat,
                ecology, and life history as described above (see also Life History and
                Habitat, final listing rule (78 FR 61004, October 2, 2013)). Where
                specific information was lacking or deficient, we relied on expert
                opinion and inferences based upon information from other Eumops, other
                molossids, or other comparable species (e.g., other fast-hawking
                insectivorous bats) as described above. Additional information can be
                found in the proposed and final listing rules (77 FR 60750, October 4,
                2012; 78 FR 61004, October 2, 2013). We have determined that the
                following physical or biological features are essential to the
                conservation of the Florida bonneted bat:
                 (1) Representative forest types (all age classes) that support the
                Florida bonneted bat by providing roosting and foraging habitat within
                its core areas (i.e., Polk, Charlotte, Lee, Collier, Monroe, and Miami-
                Dade Counties), including:
                 (a) Pine flatwoods;
                 (b) Scrubby pine flatwoods;
                 (c) Pine rocklands;
                 (d) Royal palm hammocks;
                 (e) Mixed or hardwood hammocks;
                 (f) Cypress;
                 (g) Mixed or hardwood wetlands;
                 (h) Mangroves (mature and pristine);
                 (i) Cabbage palms; and
                 (j) Sand pine scrub.
                 (2) Habitat that provides for roosting and rearing of offspring;
                such habitat provides structural features for rest, digestion of food,
                social interaction, mating, rearing of young, protection from sunlight
                and adverse weather conditions, and cover to reduce predation risks for
                adults and young, and includes forest and other areas with tall or
                mature trees and other natural areas with suitable structures, which
                are generally characterized by:
                 (a) Tall or mature live or dead trees, tree snags, and trees with
                cavities, hollows, crevices, or loose bark, including, but not limited
                to, trees greater than 10 m (33 ft) in height, greater than 20 cm (8
                in) diameter at breast height, with cavities greater than 5 m (16 ft)
                high off the ground;
                 (b) High incidence of tall or mature live trees with various
                deformities (e.g., large cavities, hollows, broken tops, loose bark,
                and other evidence of decay);
                 (c) Sufficient open space for Florida bonneted bats to fly; areas
                may include open or semi-open canopy, canopy gaps and edges, or above
                the canopy, which provide relatively uncluttered conditions; and/or
                 (d) Rock crevices.
                 (3) Habitat that provides for foraging, which may vary widely
                across the Florida bonneted bat's range, in accordance with ecological
                conditions, seasons, and disturbance regimes that influence vegetation
                structure and prey species distributions. Foraging habitat may be
                separate and relatively far distances from roosting habitat. Foraging
                habitat consists of:
                 (a) Sources for drinking water and prey, including open fresh water
                and permanent or seasonal freshwater wetlands, in natural or rural
                areas (non-urban areas);
                 (b) Wetland and upland forests, open freshwater wetlands, and
                wetland and upland shrub (which provide a prey base and suitable
                foraging conditions (i.e., open habitat structure));
                 (c) Natural or semi-natural habitat patches in urban or residential
                areas that contribute to prey base and provide suitable foraging
                conditions (i.e., open habitat structure); and/or
                 (d) The presence and abundance of the bat's prey (i.e., large,
                flying insects), in sufficient quantity, availability, and diversity
                necessary for reproduction, development, growth, and survival.
                 (4) A dynamic disturbance regime (natural or artificial) (e.g.,
                fire, hurricanes) that maintains and regenerates forested habitat,
                including plant communities, open habitat structure, and temporary
                gaps, which is conducive to promoting a continual supply of roosting
                sites, prey items, and suitable foraging conditions.
                 (5) Large patches (more than 40,470 ha (100,000 ac)) of forest and
                associated natural or semi-natural habitat types that represent
                functional ecosystems with a reduced influence from humans (i.e., areas
                that shield the bat from human disturbance, artificial lighting,
                habitat loss and degradation).
                 (6) Corridors, consisting of roosting and foraging habitat, that
                allow for population maintenance and expansion, dispersal, and
                connectivity among and between geographic areas for natural and
                adaptive movements, including those necessitated by climate change.
                 (7) A subtropical climate that provides tolerable conditions for
                the species, such that normal behavior, successful reproduction, and
                rearing of offspring are possible.
                Special Management Considerations or Protection
                 When designating critical habitat, we assess whether the specific
                areas within the geographical area occupied by the species at the time
                of listing contain features which are essential to the conservation of
                the species and which may require special management considerations or
                protection. The recovery of the Florida bonneted bat requires both
                habitat protection and management, where necessary, to provide
                sufficient high-quality habitat to allow for population growth and to
                provide a buffer against threats such as habitat loss, climate change,
                coastal squeeze, and other threats (see especially Factor A and Factor
                E, final listing rule (78 FR 61004, October 2, 2013)). The Service has
                not drafted a recovery plan for the Florida bonneted bat, but any such
                plan will likely focus on maintaining and expanding suitable roosting,
                foraging, and dispersal habitat throughout the species' range and
                reducing threats. Meeting this goal will require special management
                considerations or protection of the PBFs including passive (e.g.,
                allowing natural processes to occur without intervention) and active
                (e.g., taking actions to restore habitat conditions or address threats)
                management.
                 The types of management or protections that may be required to
                achieve these goals and maintain the PBFs essential to the conservation
                of the Florida bonneted bat in occupied areas vary across the range of
                the species. In some areas of bat habitat, particularly in wetland
                forests, open freshwater wetlands, and areas of open water, efforts may
                need to focus primarily on protection of the essential features (e.g.,
                habitat conservation, conserving trees
                [[Page 35521]]
                and snags, allowing natural processes to occur without intervention).
                However, other areas such as upland forests and degraded natural areas
                may need both protection and more proactive land management. For
                example, in coastal and fire-dependent regions of the species' range,
                habitat conditions may be more dynamic, and more active management may
                be required to reduce risks to the essential PBFs from wildfire,
                inadequate fire regimes, nonnative invasive plants, competition for
                tree cavities, pesticides, artificial lighting, inadvertent impacts
                from humans, hurricanes and storm surges, and sea-level rise.
                 The PBFs essential to the conservation of this species may require
                special management considerations or protection to reduce the following
                threats:
                Habitat Loss
                 Habitat loss, degradation, and modification from human population
                growth and associated development (including infrastructure and energy
                development) and agriculture have impacted the Florida bonneted bat and
                are expected to further curtail its limited range (see Factor A, final
                listing rule (78 FR 61004, October 2, 2013); Bailey et al. 2017a,
                entire). Based on the expected rates of human population growth and
                urbanization in southern Florida, nearly all agricultural and private
                natural lands are predicted to be converted to developed land by 2060
                (Zwick and Carr 2006). Of this, approximately 7.5 percent of the area
                in our proposed units (over 44,718 ha (110,500 ac)) are predicted to be
                converted to developed land by 2070 (Carr and Zwick 2016, entire). The
                species occurs, in part, on publicly owned lands that are managed for
                conservation, ameliorating some of these threats (see Document
                Availability, Supporting Documents, above). However, any unknown extant
                populations of the bat or suitable habitat on private lands or non-
                conservation public lands are vulnerable to habitat loss and
                fragmentation. Retaining a habitat network of large and diverse natural
                areas for conservation purposes in a spatial configuration throughout
                the Florida bonneted bat's range and actively managing those lands will
                likely be essential to conservation. In addition, conservation efforts
                on private lands can help reduce the threats of habitat loss,
                increasing the potential for long-term survival.
                 Natural roosting habitat appears to be limiting, and competition
                for tree cavities is high (see Factor E, Competition for Tree Cavities,
                final listing rule (78 FR 61004, October 2, 2013)). To help conserve
                the Florida bonneted bat, efforts should be made to retain tall trees,
                cavity trees, trees with hollows or other decay, and snags wherever
                possible to protect habitat, reduce competition for suitable roosts,
                and bolster or expand populations within the species' known range
                (Angell and Thompson 2015, p. 187; Braun de Torrez et al. 2016, pp.
                235, 240; Ober et al. 2016, p. 7). The use of artificial structures for
                the Florida bonneted bat may also be beneficial in some locations,
                especially where roosting structures are lacking or deficient (see Use
                of Artificial Structures (Bat Houses), final listing rule (78 FR 61004,
                October 2, 2013)).
                 Substantial losses in suitable foraging habitats are expected to
                occur in the coming decades as natural and agricultural areas are
                converted to other uses and as areas become urbanized (Carr and Zwick
                2016, entire; Bailey et al. 2017a, p. 1591). Conservation of natural
                and semi-natural habitats and restoration with native plants is
                imperative to help maintain sufficient prey base. Natural habitats
                conducive to insect diversity should be protected and any pesticides
                should be used with caution (see Life History, and Factor E, Pesticides
                and Contaminants, final listing rule (78 FR 61004, October 2, 2013)).
                Climate Change and Sea-Level Rise
                 The effects resulting from climate change, including sea-level
                rise, saltwater intrusion, and coastal squeeze, are expected to become
                severe in the future and result in additional habitat losses, including
                the loss of roost sites and foraging habitat (see Factor A, final
                listing rule (78 FR 61004, October 2, 2013). Within the species' range,
                low-lying areas along the coast are most vulnerable to inundation, and
                additional areas are likely to experience changes in plant species
                composition (decline in forested habitat such as cabbage palm forests,
                pine rockland, and coastal hardwood hammocks). Occupied Florida
                bonneted bat habitat located near the coast in south Florida (e.g.,
                Collier, Lee, Miami-Dade, Monroe, Charlotte, Desoto, and Sarasota
                Counties) will be vulnerable to inundation and/or saltwater intrusion
                as sea levels rise. An estimated 16.4 percent (97,832 ha (241,748 ac))
                of the occupied habitat area we propose for designation is projected to
                be inundated by 6 feet of salt water around 2070 (sea level rise plus
                tidal flooding; Sweet et al. 2017, entire; Sweet et al. 2018, entire;
                Sweet et al. 2019, entire). Although we are unable to accurately
                estimate the extent of other climate change-related effects, we expect
                additional occupied habitat will be impacted by saltwater intrusion,
                drier conditions, and increased variability in precipitation, likely
                resulting in changes to vegetation composition and prey availability,
                decreased forest regeneration, and potential increases in wildfire
                frequency, severity, and scale (see Factor A, Land Use Changes and
                Human Population Growth, Climate Change and Sea Level Rise, final
                listing rule (78 FR 61004, October 2, 2013)). The trend toward higher
                temperatures and lower rainfall (or shifts in rainfall patterns) could
                result in the degradation of wetlands and other important open-water
                habitats, or complete loss of affected foraging areas if drought-like
                conditions persist. Actual impacts may be greater or less than
                anticipated based upon high variability of factors involved (e.g., sea-
                level rise, human population growth) and assumptions made.
                 As a result of these impacts and other causes of habitat loss and
                degradation, PBFs may no longer be available in some areas, and the
                amount of suitable occupied Florida bonneted bat habitat is likely to
                shrink dramatically in the future. Habitat loss from sea-level rise and
                saltwater intrusion will be greatest in areas closer to the coast and
                is likely to result in the loss of some bonneted bat populations, such
                as those in eastern Miami-Dade County, reducing the species' ability to
                withstand catastrophic events (i.e., redundancy). We anticipate
                additional populations near the coast will be reduced in size, such as
                those in Charlotte, Lee, Collier, Monroe, and remaining areas in Miami-
                Dade Counties, resulting in decreased overall health and fitness (i.e.,
                resiliency) of those populations. Further, most of the remaining bat
                populations face similar threats and pressures (e.g., development
                pressure, effects of climate change, coastal squeeze, droughts,
                hurricanes) that are expected to reduce their resiliency. This limits
                the species' ability to recover from population declines, when many
                populations are similarly affected. However, we lack certainty as to
                the severity of impacts the effects of sea level rise may have on the
                bat's critical habitat.
                 Directly addressing sea-level rise is beyond the control of
                landowners or managers. However, while landowners or land managers may
                not be able prevent these events, they may be able to respond with
                management or protection. Management actions or activities that could
                ameliorate the effects of sea-level rise on the Florida bonneted bat
                include providing protection of inland or higher elevation
                [[Page 35522]]
                suitable habitats that are predicted to be unaffected or less affected
                by sea-level rise, or habitat restoration or enhancement of these
                areas. Conserving areas in the northern portion of the range may be
                particularly important, as bats may respond to increases in
                temperatures and other changes in the environment, possibly becoming
                more heavily dependent upon these areas in the future.
                Land Management Practices
                 While land management practices are intended to mimic natural
                processes and benefit native species like the Florida bonneted bat by
                maintaining habitat quality, these activities can result in inadvertent
                negative impacts. For example, removal of old or live trees with
                cavities or hollows during activities associated with forest management
                (e.g., timber management including tree removal/thinning/pruning), fuel
                reduction, prescribed fire, non-native or invasive species treatment,
                habitat restoration, or trail maintenance may inadvertently remove
                roost sites, if such sites are not known (see Factor A, Land Management
                Practices, final listing rule (78 FR 61004, October 2, 2013)). Also,
                while fire is a vital component in maintaining suitable habitat (Braun
                de Torrez et al. 2018, entire), cavity-roosting bats are generally
                susceptible to fire effects, and even a single, localized fire event
                could potentially impact individuals (Carter et al. 2000, p. 140). Loss
                of an active roost or removal during critical life-history stages
                (e.g., when females are pregnant or rearing young) can have severe
                ramifications, considering the species' apparent small population size
                and low fecundity (see Factor E, Effects of Small Population Size,
                Isolation, and Other Factors, final listing rule (78 FR 61004, October
                2, 2013)). Risk from fire or other forest management practices may be
                minimized by conducting activities outside the bat's breeding season,
                though disturbance to roost sites at any time of the year may alter
                social dynamics and reproductive success (Blumstein 2010, pp. 665-666;
                Ober et al. 2016, p. 7).
                 Conversely, forest management can help maintain important roosting
                and foraging habitat (see Use of Forests and Other Natural Areas, final
                listing rule (78 FR 61004, October 2, 2013)), and, in fact, a lack of
                forest management, including a lack of prescribed fire, can be
                detrimental to the species. Management practices that include retaining
                large-cavity trees and snags, wherever possible, may help reduce
                competition for tree cavities (see Factor E, Competition for Tree
                Cavities, final listing rule (78 FR 61004, October 2, 2013)), enhance
                roosting opportunities, and help promote survival and the potential for
                population expansion over the long term. Prescribed fire has been found
                to have short-term positive effects on Florida bonneted bats, and
                restoring fire to fire-dependent forests may improve foraging habitat
                for this species (e.g., alter vegetation and prey base; create openings
                and alter structure) or create snags (Carter et al. 2000, p. 139;
                Boyles and Aubrey 2006, entire; Lacki et al. 2009, entire; Armitage and
                Ober 2012, entire; FWC 2013, pp. 9-11; Ober and McCleery 2014, pp. 1-3;
                Braun de Torrez et al. 2018, entire).
                Wind Energy
                 Wind power is one of the fastest growing sectors of the energy
                industry (Horn et al. 2008, p. 123; Cryan and Barclay 2009, p. 1330),
                and the development of wind energy facilities in Florida may be of
                particular concern for the Florida bonneted bat as demand increases
                (see Proposed Wind Energy Facilities, final listing rule (78 FR 61004,
                October 2, 2013)). Wind turbines kill large number of bats across North
                America, through direct contact with blades or towers as well as due to
                barotrauma (which involves tissue damage to air-containing structures
                such as lungs, caused by rapid or excessive pressure changes that can
                result when wind turbine blades create zones of low pressure as air
                flows over them). Wind turbine facilities are being planned for sites
                east and west of Lake Okeechobee, and wind energy development companies
                have indicated that areas around Lake Okeechobee are the most suitable
                sites in Florida for wind development (Tucker, in litt. 2012). If
                successfully developed, additional sites could be proposed, increasing
                the risk of impacts from wind energy to the Florida bonneted bat
                (Tucker, in litt. 2012).
                 While bat fatalities from wind energy facilities are well
                documented, potential impacts to the Florida bonneted bat are difficult
                to evaluate at this time, partly due to the uncertainty involving many
                factors (e.g., location of facilities, operations). Certain aspects of
                the species' status and life history may increase vulnerability to
                impacts from wind energy facilities. The species' small population and
                low fecundity make any additional potential sources of mortality cause
                for concern. The species' high and strong flight capabilities and fast-
                hawking foraging behavior may increase risk. Conversely, as the species
                is non-migratory, potential impacts from wind energy facilities may not
                be as great in magnitude as perhaps other bat species that are
                migratory. Implementation of the Service's land-based wind energy
                guidelines may also help to avoid and minimize some impacts (Service
                2012, pp. 1-71).
                Environmental Stochasticity
                 Hurricanes, storm surges, and other catastrophic and stochastic
                events are of significant concern (see Factor E, Environmental
                Stochasticity and Aspects of the Species' Life History and Climate
                Change Implications, final listing rule (78 FR 61004, October 2,
                2013)). In 2017 alone, at least four known roost trees were impacted by
                Hurricane Irma. While landowners or land managers cannot prevent these
                events, they may be able to respond with protection or management that
                can help reduce some effects or facilitate recovery from these events.
                Retention of large trees and snags wherever possible in multiple
                locations can help provide valuable roosting habitat throughout the
                species' range (Braun de Torrez et al. 2016, pp. 235, 240; Ober et al.
                2016, p. 7). Management actions or activities that could enhance forest
                recovery following storms may include hand or mechanical removal of
                damaged vegetation or prescribed fire, if or when conditions are
                suitable. If large trees, cavity trees, trees with hollows or other
                decay, or snags need to be removed due to safety issues, visual or
                other inspection should occur to ensure that active roosts are not
                removed in this process.
                 Artificial structures could potentially help provide roosting
                opportunities in areas impacted by stochastic events or where suitable
                natural roosts are lacking or deficient. More research on the role of
                bat houses in bonneted bat conservation is needed, especially given the
                bat's social structure (FWC 2013, pp. 11-12; Ober et al. 2016, p. 7).
                If used, bat houses should be appropriately designed, placed,
                maintained, and monitored; such structures may also need to be
                reinforced and duplicated to prevent loss. If an occupied area is
                severely impacted, causing major losses of suitable natural roosts, the
                use of artificial structures could be explored as one possible option
                to help regain lost roosting capacity.
                Pesticides and Contaminants
                 More study is needed to fully assess the risk that pesticides and
                contaminants pose to the Florida bonneted bat (see Factor E, Pesticides
                and Contaminants, final listing rule (78 FR 61004, October 2, 2013)).
                Although data are lacking, the species may be exposed to a variety of
                compounds through multiple routes of exposure. Areas with intensive
                pesticide activity
                [[Page 35523]]
                may not support an adequate food base. Foraging habitat can be
                enhanced, in part, by limiting the use of pesticides, including
                agrochemicals (chemicals used in agriculture) (Russo and Jones 2003,
                pp. 206-207; Wickramasinghe et al. 2003, pp. 991-992; Wickramasinghe et
                al. 2004, entire). While exposure to some contaminants (e.g., mercury)
                may be beyond the realm of what individuals or agencies can rectify,
                risks from pesticides can be partially reduced at the local level. For
                example, landowners and land managers can help reduce some risks of
                exposure and improve foraging conditions for the Florida bonneted bat
                by avoiding or limiting use of insecticides (e.g., mosquito control,
                agricultural), wherever possible, and especially in areas known to be
                occupied by the Florida bonneted bat. An increased occurrence of
                bonneted bats was found in agricultural areas and was attributed to a
                combination of insect abundance in these areas and the species' ability
                to forage in open spaces (Bailey et al. 2017a, pp. 1589, 1591). It is
                reasonable to assume that prey base (i.e., availability, abundance, and
                diversity of insects) would be more plentiful with reduction of
                insecticides, where possible. If pesticides cannot be avoided, ways to
                reduce impacts should be explored. Protecting natural and semi-natural
                habitats that support insect diversity can also improve foraging
                conditions and contribute to conservation.
                Ecological Light Pollution
                 The Florida bonneted bat's behavioral response to ecological light
                pollution has not been examined; thus, the effects are not known (see
                Factor E, Ecological Light Pollution, final listing rule (78 FR 61004,
                October 2, 2013)). The effects of artificial lighting on other bats and
                their prey have been partially studied. Artificial lighting may affect
                insect abundance or availability and prey base, thereby altering
                foraging conditions and community structure. Artificial lighting can
                also alter the normal movements and behaviors of bat species,
                negatively affecting the energy reserves of individuals (Longcore and
                Rich 2004, pp. 193-195). Thus, at this time, we consider ecological
                light pollution a potential threat to the Florida bonneted bat and its
                habitat. Management actions or activities that could ameliorate
                ecological light pollution include: Avoiding and minimizing the use of
                artificial lighting, retaining natural light conditions, and promoting
                the use of environmentally friendly lighting practices to minimize
                impacts to wildlife.
                Inadvertent and Purposeful Impacts From Humans
                 Inadvertent or purposeful impacts by humans caused by intolerance
                or lack of awareness (e.g., removal of bats, landscaping activities,
                and bridge or infrastructure maintenance) can lead to mortality or
                destruction and disturbances to roosts during sensitive times
                (maternity season) (see Factor E, Inadvertent and Purposeful Impacts
                From Humans, final listing rule (78 FR 61004, October 2, 2013)). Single
                or repeated disturbances to roosts or disturbances at sensitive times
                may cause abandonment or other negative impacts. The Florida bonneted
                bat may be somewhat tolerant of human disturbances, in some
                environments, but the extent of that tolerance is unknown. Agencies,
                land managers, and landowners can help avoid impacts to roosting
                habitat by implementing some of the following proactive or mitigative
                measures: Raising awareness of the species' abilities to use artificial
                structures as roosts; conserving natural roosting sites, including
                forested habitat and areas with mature trees; minimizing disturbance of
                roosting sites during sensitive times of the year; using care during
                landscaping if vegetation provides suitable or potential roosts;
                implementing protective measures when conducting bridge maintenance and
                repair; using care when replacing or repairing utility poles; and
                employing other best management practices, whenever possible.
                 Many species of bats use highway structures either as day or night
                roosts (Keeley and Tuttle 1999, p. 9). Although Eumops has not been
                documented to use bridges or culverts, the genus can potentially use
                such structures (Keeley and Tuttle 1999, p. 28; Marks and Marks, pers.
                comm. 2008). If the Florida bonneted bat is found to use these
                structures, agencies could explore opportunities for creating roosting
                habitat in new or existing highway structures, when projects are
                planned and as repairs on infrastructure are needed (Keeley and Tuttle
                1999, pp. 18-20). Roadways with structures passing through public
                conservation lands may be especially suitable for such habitat
                enhancement projects (Keeley and Tuttle 1999, p. 18). Retrofitting
                projects can help enhance habitat for bats, can be inexpensive, and can
                also benefit agriculture, as bats play important roles in arthropod
                suppression, helping to naturally control agricultural pests and reduce
                the need for pesticide use (Keely and Tuttle 1999, pp. 18-20; Jones et
                al. 2009, pp. 97-98; Kunz et al. 2011, entire). In addition to
                minimizing environmental damage from infrastructure projects, other
                mitigation may include providing alternative roosts on-site or
                artificial structures off-site (Keely and Tuttle 1999, p. 21).
                Occupancy at the Time of Listing
                 The geographical area occupied by the species at the time of
                listing is defined at 50 CFR 424.02 as an area that may generally be
                delineated around species' occurrences, as determined by the Secretary
                (i.e., range). Such areas may include those areas used throughout all
                or part of the species' life cycle, even if not used on a regular basis
                (e.g., migratory corridors, seasonal habitats, and habitats used
                periodically, but not solely by vagrant individuals). To make
                reasonable determinations about occupancy, we used all data and
                information available on the Florida bonneted bat (see also Space for
                Individual and Population Growth and for Normal Behavior, above). The
                best available scientific data for Florida bonneted bat occurrences
                date from 2003, reflecting the beginning of recent survey efforts. The
                Florida bonneted bat appears to have a relatively long lifespan,
                assuming a lifespan of 10 to 20 years for bats of this size (Wilkinson
                and South 2002, entire). Thus, bats documented between 2003 and 2013
                may still be alive and using the general locations where originally
                located. Adult Florida bonneted bats appear to also have high site
                fidelity (Ober et al. 2016, pp. 4-7), and more recent data are
                consistent with those from previously surveyed areas. Accordingly, it
                is reasonable to conclude these areas were still inhabited by bonneted
                bats when the species was listed in 2013 (see also Occupied and
                Potential Occupied Areas, final listing rule (78 FR 61004, October 2,
                2013)). Therefore, we considered areas with documented presence of
                bonneted bats since 2003 (11 years prior to its listing) as occupied at
                the time of listing.
                 For this same reason, we considered areas with documented presence
                of bonneted bats from October 2013 through 2019 as occupied at the time
                of listing. Again, due to the species' life span and high site
                fidelity, it is reasonable to conclude that these areas found to be
                occupied in 2013 to 2019 would have been inhabited by bonneted bats
                when the species was listed in 2013. The confirmed presence data
                received after listing (through 2019) corresponded well with previous
                data and generally reinforced our understanding of occupied areas.
                 We also conclude that areas surrounding point locations of
                confirmed presences at time of listing
                [[Page 35524]]
                were occupied by bonneted bats at that time (see also detailed
                discussion in Space for Individual and Population Growth and for Normal
                Behavior, above). Due to the species' morphological characteristics and
                flight capabilities, bonneted bats use areas within reasonable flight
                distances from the locations where they were recorded or otherwise
                documented. Data from satellite-tagged Florida bonneted bats (few bats
                inhabiting one site) indicated that individuals foraged as far as 39
                kilometers (km) (24 miles (mi)) from their capture sites (Ober 2016, p.
                3; Webb, pers. comm. 2018a-b). However, roost locations (the center
                point of bat activities) related to these data were unknown. Therefore,
                as a conservative estimate of foraging distance, we used a 19-km (12-
                mi) radius from documented presences (i.e., assuming a normal
                distribution of activity 0 to 24 miles from the center point). Although
                flight distances appear to differ based upon sex and season (Webb,
                pers. comm. 2018b), and may vary based on habitat quality and available
                food resources, for the purposes of this effort, based on the best
                available science and to conservatively target areas most essential to
                the species' recovery, we considered areas within a 19-km (12-mi)
                distance or radius from confirmed presences to be occupied at the time
                of listing.
                 We further acknowledge that areas for which we lack data may also
                have been occupied at the time of listing. Limited confirmed presence
                data (see proposed and final listing rules (77 FR 60750, October 4,
                2012; 78 FR 61004, October 2, 2013) are confounded by the difficulties
                in detection, due in part to the following factors: The species'
                general rarity; aspects of the species' ecology (e.g., flies high,
                travels long distances, is nocturnal); limitations in survey equipment
                (e.g., recording distance of acoustic devices), design (e.g., lack of
                randomization (selection of a random sample)), or effort (e.g.,
                insufficient listening periods, recordings not taken from sunset to
                sunrise); and other limitations (e.g., large areas not surveyed due to
                lack of resources or access, surveys primarily conducted on public
                lands) (see also Acoustical Survey Efforts as Indicators of Rarity,
                proposed and final listing rules; Summary of Comments and
                Recommendations, final listing rule (78 FR 61004, October 2, 2013)).
                 Overall, (1) bonneted bats are rare on the landscape, meaning they
                are difficult to detect; (2) bonneted bats are elusive (e.g., they fly
                high and fast over large distances) and nocturnal by nature, again
                making them difficult to detect; and (3) repeated, intensive, and
                systematic surveys on lands within the species' range are generally
                lacking, meaning that a lack of detection does not necessarily indicate
                the species' absence (given the data available). Therefore, there is
                uncertainty as to whether or not other areas (i.e., those areas not
                surveyed and those areas that have been surveyed but lack confirmed
                presence data) were also occupied at the time the bonneted bat was
                listed. Large expanses of the bonneted bat's range have not been
                systematically surveyed or, if surveyed, they have not been surveyed
                rigorously enough to confirm absence (e.g., surveyed on a single or
                partial night, insufficient number of acoustic devices used, survey not
                repeated). We recognize that the available occurrence data, largely
                obtained through acoustical surveys, are limited in several regards
                (e.g., not randomized, conducted largely on public lands, employed
                insufficient listening periods, had different detection rates, used
                different devices and methods, large areas not surveyed). Due to the
                survey limitations and constraints, it should be noted that confirmed
                presences were more likely to be detected in preferred habitats, on
                public lands, and in accessible areas. Due to both the limited number
                of surveys undertaken and the overall lack of rigor (e.g., effort
                insufficient to fully document presence or suggest absence), it is
                reasonable to assume that other areas where suitable habitat exists
                within the geographic range may also have been occupied at the time of
                listing. However, for the purposes of this proposed designation, we
                relied on confirmed presence data including a radius of areas the bat
                uses around those points.
                Criteria Used To Identify Critical Habitat
                 As required by section 4(b)(2) of the Act, we use the best
                scientific data available to designate critical habitat. In accordance
                with the Act and our implementing regulations at 50 CFR 424.12(b), we
                review available information pertaining to the habitat requirements of
                the species and identify specific areas within the geographical area
                occupied by the species at the time of listing and any specific areas
                outside the geographical area occupied by the species that could be
                considered for designation as critical habitat.
                 We are proposing to designate critical habitat units that we have
                determined, based on the best available scientific and commercial
                information, to be occupied at the time of listing (see Occupancy at
                the Time of Listing, above). Thus, the areas being proposed for
                designation contain one or more of the PBFs that are essential to
                support life-history processes of the species and which may require
                special management considerations or protection pursuant to section
                3(5)(A)(i) of the Act. As a highly social species, the Florida bonneted
                bat likely exhibits a metapopulation life-history model (a group of
                spatially separated populations that interact at some level), and
                although the species appears to exhibit strong roost site-fidelity,
                individuals within populations can and do move through suitable habitat
                to take advantage of changing conditions (e.g., availability of prey,
                roost sites) in a dynamic fashion through space and time (Ober et al.
                2016, entire). We included areas that are expected to help maintain
                suitable roosting habitat and that include certain forested features we
                believe provide for connectivity and dispersal between geographic areas
                and/or subpopulations (see Population Estimates and Status and Factor
                E, Effects of Small Population Size, Isolation, and Other Factors,
                final listing rule (78 FR 61004, October 2, 2013)). However, at any
                given moment, not all areas within each unit are being used by the
                species because, by definition, individuals within metapopulations move
                in space and time. Therefore, within the current range of the species,
                to the best of our knowledge, some portions of these units may or may
                not be actively used by individuals, colonies, or extant bat
                subpopulations or populations, but we consider these areas to be
                occupied at the scale of the geographic range of the species.
                 For this proposed rule, we employed the following basic steps to
                delineate potential critical habitat (detailed methods follow below):
                 (1) We compiled all available data from confirmed observations,
                acoustical recordings, and other records of the Florida bonneted bat
                (see Data Sources, below).
                 (2) Using the best available science, including confirmed presence
                data from 2003 through 2014, and reasonable inferences regarding home
                range sizes and flight distances of other Eumops and other comparable
                species, we conducted habitat analyses to better understand Florida
                bonneted bat habitat use at multiple spatial scales (see Habitat
                Analyses, below).
                 (3) Based on the results of our habitat analyses and using the best
                available scientific information, including confirmed presence data
                from 2003 to 2019, and foraging distance data, we evaluated occupied
                areas for suitability, identified areas containing the PBFs that
                [[Page 35525]]
                may require special management considerations or protection, and
                circumscribed boundaries of potential proposed occupied critical
                habitat units (see Mapping Critical Habitat Units, below).
                 Specific criteria and methodology used to determine proposed
                critical habitat unit boundaries are discussed below.
                Data Sources
                 For our habitat analyses and unit delineations, we used confirmed
                presence data from 2003 through 2019 (see Occupancy at the Time of
                Listing, above). Only confirmed presences (i.e., not suspected bat
                calls) with specific location information were used. Only data for
                which we had a high degree of confidence and detailed location
                information were used. As such, we included data from the following
                sources:
                 (a) Range-wide surveys conducted in 2006-2007, to determine the
                status of the Florida bonneted bat following the 2004 hurricane season,
                and follow-up surveys in 2008 (Marks and Marks 2008a, pp. 1-16 and
                appendices; 2008b, pp. 1-6);
                 (b) Surveys conducted in 2008 along the Kissimmee River and Lake
                Wales Ridge, as part of bat conservation and land management efforts
                (Marks and Marks 2008c, pp. 1-28; 2008d, pp. 1-21; Morse 2008, p. 2);
                 (c) Surveys conducted within BCNP in 2003 and 2007 (Snow, pers.
                comm. 2012f), and surveys conducted in BCNP in 2012-2014 (Arwood, pers.
                comm. 2012a-b, 2013a-c; 2014a-d);
                 (d) Surveys conducted in 2011-2012 in ENP (Snow, pers. comm. 2012b-
                e; in litt. 2012);
                 (e) Surveys conducted in 2010-2012, to fill past gaps and better
                define the northern and southern extent of the species' range (Marks
                and Marks 2012, entire);
                 (f) Surveys conducted at APAFR in 2013 (Scofield, pers. comm.
                2013a-f);
                 (g) Surveys conducted at FPNWR in 2013 (Maehr 2013, entire; Maehr,
                pers. comm. 2013b);
                 (h) Surveys conducted at Zoo Miami, Larry and Penny Thompson Park,
                and Martinez Preserve in 2012 and 2013 (Ridgley, pers. comm. 2013a-d;
                2014a-c); and
                 (i) Surveys conducted at PSSF, multiple years (Smith, pers. comm.
                2013).
                 Additional details regarding the above surveys are described in the
                proposed and final listing rules (77 FR 60750; 78 FR 61004). All
                relevant new occurrence data received since the final rule was
                published (October 2, 2013) through May 2014 were also considered in
                the habitat analyses. The most significant of these was the discovery
                of an active natural roost site, within an enlarged cavity in a live
                longleaf pine at APAFR (Scofield, pers. comm. 2013g-i; 2014a-b; Angell
                and Thompson 2015, entire) (see specifics in Cover or Shelter, above).
                 More recent occurrence data (collected June 2014 through 2019)
                confirmed earlier data and further informed our understanding of how
                bats use their landscape. For the reasons stated above (see Occupied at
                the Time of Listing), we conclude it is reasonable to assume that bats
                occupying specific areas in 2014 to 2019, occupied those areas at the
                time of listing in 2013. We incorporated these data into our
                determination of which areas may contain the PBFs. Together, this
                information guided our mapping of critical habitat units, and were used
                to verify areas of high-quality habitat we previously identified. These
                data included the following:
                 (a) Range-wide surveys conducted in 2014 and 2015 to determine
                Florida bonneted bat distribution and habitat use (Bailey et al. 2017a,
                entire);
                 (b) Ongoing telemetry studies to identify natural roost sites and
                foraging habits (Webb, pers. comm. 2017a-e; Braun de Torrez, pers.
                comm. 2019a-e);
                 (c) Surveys conducted from 2014 to 2019 on private lands by private
                consultants (unpublished data, various sources); and
                 (d) Surveys conducted from 2014 to 2019 within conservation and
                public lands (unpublished data, various sources; including, for
                example, APAFR, BCNP, FPNWR, FSPSP).
                 For our habitat analyses and subsequent unit delineations, we used
                a variety of data sources that provide information regarding land
                cover/habitat type and condition, as described below. We obtained
                vegetation cover types and land uses from the Florida Land Use and
                Cover Classification System (FLUCCS) GIS database (FWC and Florida
                Natural Areas Inventory (FNAI) 2015). FLUCCS categories were grouped to
                condense more than 100 different vegetation cover/land use classes into
                10 major land cover categories. These included: Wetland forest, wetland
                shrub, upland forest, upland shrub, open freshwater wetlands, saltwater
                wetlands, grasslands/open land, agricultural, urban, and water. We used
                0.8-km (0.5-mi) grid cells to examine land cover types within south and
                central peninsular Florida, encompassing the entirety of the species'
                known historical, current, and suspected range. Percentages of each of
                the 10 major land cover categories in each 0.8-km (0.5-mi) grid cell
                were calculated using the area tool in ArcGIS; these were then used for
                a series of habitat analyses.
                 We used available RCW data layers (mainly active and inactive
                cavity trees), based upon suggestions from FWC and evidence indicating
                that Florida bonneted bats use enlarged woodpecker cavities for
                roosting (Angell and Thompson 2015, entire) (see Cover or Shelter,
                above). Although Florida bonneted bats likely use various structures
                for roosting, active and inactive RCW cavity trees were selected as an
                appropriate indicator to evaluate potential roosting habitat
                (especially in areas where bat surveys were lacking). RCW cavity trees
                are also a good surrogate for roosting habitat because the RCW is
                tracked due to its State and Federal status (i.e., agencies have
                current and reliable data on RCWs, but not necessarily other non-listed
                cavity nesters). Data included locations of RCW cavity trees from
                various sources. Where in-house data were outdated, more recent
                information was obtained through the assistance of FWC and other
                agencies. This included information from the following locations and
                sources:
                 Babcock-Webb WMA--locations where Florida bonneted bats
                were recorded near RCW clusters (J. Myers, pers. comm. 2013b);
                 Corbett WMA--locations of active and inactive RCW trees
                (P. Miles, pers. comm. 2013);
                 DuPuis Wildlife and Environmental Area--locations of
                active and inactive RCW trees (V. Sparling, pers. comm. 2014);
                 Big Cypress WMA--locations of active and inactive RCW
                trees (R. Scott, pers. comm. 2014); and
                 PSSF--locations of RCW cavity trees (e.g., active and
                inactive cavity trees, enlarged cavity entrance trees, dead standing
                cavity trees) (Sowell, pers. comm. 2013, 2014). For areas within BCNP
                and ENP, we also used areas searched for the ivory-billed woodpecker
                (Campephilus principalis) and other woodpeckers (i.e., areas that
                contained large-cavity trees) as part of Cornell University's study
                (Lammertink et al. 2010, entire).
                 We used ESRI ArcGIS online basemap aerial imagery (collected
                December, 2010) and Digital Orthophoto Quarter Quadrangles (1-m true
                color; collected 2004) of select areas to cross-check FLUCCS and ensure
                the presence of PBFs. We used the most recent county-supplied imagery
                datasets available at the time of the habitat analysis. To identify
                high-value areas (i.e., high-
                [[Page 35526]]
                quality habitat expected to have conservation value now or in the
                future), we used the FNAI Florida Conservation Lands dataset. In Miami-
                Dade County, we also used the Institute for Regional Conservation's
                Natural Forest Community delineation, exclusive of ENP (IRC 2006).
                Lastly, we used the most recent available county parcels layers for
                regions intersecting critical habitat units to identify ownership.
                Habitat Analyses
                 We conducted a series of GIS analyses to better understand habitat
                use along different spatial scales (i.e., across the landscape, by
                geographic region, and by specific locations (e.g., natural roost
                site). To best represent those habitat conditions which provide the
                PBFs for Florida bonneted bats, we first identified four geographic
                regions to focus on in our habitat analysis based on confirmed presence
                data: (1) West (Charlotte/Lee Counties), (2) southwest (Collier/Monroe/
                Lee/Hendry Counties), (3) southeast (Miami-Dade County), and (4) north-
                central (Polk/Okeechobee and adjacent counties). These geographic
                regions may represent subpopulations or multiple subpopulations within
                a metapopulation (see Population Estimates and Status and Factor E,
                Effects of Small Population Size, Isolation, and Other Factors, final
                listing rule (78 FR 61004, October 2, 2013)).
                 Based on limited tracking data (Braun de Torrez, pers. comm. 2015a;
                Ober 2015, p. 3) indicating that, in some situations, bonneted bats may
                spend more time within 1.6-km (1-mi) of their roosts, we applied this
                distance as a radius around confirmed presences to analyze habitat
                types. Habitat within these circular areas around Florida bonneted bat
                presence locations was analyzed based on FLUCCS land cover types, which
                we grouped and applied to 0.8-km (0.5-mi) grid cells (see Data Sources,
                above).
                 Using this approach, we identified the top five cover types in
                terms of area (i.e., highest percentage of total area) as being the
                most important cover types, based upon limited data and analyses. In
                natural landscapes, wetland forest, open freshwater wetland, wetland
                shrub, upland forest, and upland shrub comprised the top five land
                cover types when examining habitats within 1.6 km (1 mi) of confirmed
                presences. When analyzing habitat within the geographic regions, top
                habitat types were similar, although the most prevalent land cover type
                varied based on the geographic area. In the vicinity of the one active
                natural roost known at the time of our analysis, upland forest and
                upland shrub comprised approximately 90 percent of the surrounding
                habitat, while at another select location (Annette's Pond in BCNP),
                wetland forest represented over half of the habitat within 1.6 km (1
                mi).
                Mapping Critical Habitat Units
                 Using results from our habitat analyses, and available occurrence
                and movement data, we evaluated habitat suitability for the Florida
                bonneted bat. This species likely uses roosting sites that are located
                within reasonable distances from their confirmed presences (i.e.,
                ``central-place foraging''; Rainho and Palmeirim 2011). Similarly,
                given their social nature, bonneted bats are presumed to use habitats
                near where they have been detected to perform other activities; hence
                these habitats are considered important to fulfill essential life
                functions. It should be recognized that actual habitat used by Florida
                bonneted bats may be removed in time and space from point locations
                identified during one-time surveys. The underlying uncertainty
                associated with point encounters means that it is difficult, and
                possibly inaccurate, to use bounded home ranges from empirical data
                when site-specific information regarding habitat use at surveyed areas
                is lacking. Foraging, roosting, breeding, dispersal, emigration, and
                recolonization require movements through habitats across generations,
                which may venture well beyond estimated single-night or single-season
                home ranges or movement distances. To account for this, we considered
                the distribution of suitable habitat features in relation to confirmed
                presence locations and the ability of bats to move along good habitat
                corridors. It is evident that other Eumops and other molossids can,
                over the course of a night, move through several kilometers of habitat
                (if the intervening habitat or conditions are suitable) (Tibbitts et
                al. 2002, entire; Ober 2015, p. 3; Braun de Torrez, pers. comm. 2015a;
                Ober 2016, p. 3; Webb, pers. comm. 2018a-b). Habitat connectivity is
                particularly important for the Florida bonneted bat given its limited
                geographic range and need for dispersal and expansion as the species
                responds to numerous threats.
                 Therefore, given observed flight distances from data available on
                comparable species at the time of our habitat analyses, we first
                evaluated natural habitats within 12 km (7.5 mi) of confirmed
                detections from 2003 through May 2014 to guide our identification of
                important occupied areas. This radius was selected as a conservative
                distance representing the midpoint of 24 km (15 mi), which we
                determined to be a reasonable estimate of foraging distance based on
                one-way distance data for related and comparable species available at
                the time of our habitat analyses (Tibbitts et al. 2002, p. 11; Gore,
                pers. comm. 2013). While more recent data indicate bonneted bats can
                fly much farther than this (Ober 2016, p. 3; Webb, pers. comm. 2018a-b;
                see also Space for Individual and Population Growth and for Normal
                Behavior and Occupancy at the Time of Listing, above), we chose to
                retain the 12-km (7.5-mi) radius as a more suitable analysis distance
                to focus conservation of high-quality foraging habitat nearer to
                roosts. Natural habitats within this radius of confirmed presences were
                evaluated unless some other habitat parameter (as outlined in the PBFs
                above) suggested low habitat utility or practical dispersal barriers
                (e.g., urban habitat, areas devoid of natural cover or insects). In
                some cases, high-quality habitats beyond the 12-km (7.5-mi) radius were
                included, if habitats were contiguous and adjoining (e.g., adjoining
                forest within BCNP) or a natural corridor.
                 To identify areas containing the PBFs for Florida bonneted bats
                that may require special management considerations or protection, we
                applied the findings of our habitat analyses to evaluate occupied
                habitat using both FLUCCS and images from aerial photography in GIS. We
                determined that grid cells (see Data Sources, above) with at least 80
                percent of the top five cover types (see Habitat Analyses, above)
                qualified as suitable habitat for the Florida bonneted bat. This
                threshold was chosen after comparing with other values over 50 percent
                (i.e., values representing grid cells having a majority of habitat
                within the top five cover types). We found that despite a large amount
                of overlap between these values, using the relatively less inclusive
                80-percent threshold resulted in the best balance of identifying high-
                quality habitat that have PBFs and excluding low-quality areas that do
                not, based on site-specific knowledge. Thus, concentrations of grid
                cells that contained at least 80 percent of the top five important
                cover types within each geographic region were generally retained as
                areas that may contain PBFs. We included areas of water within the 12-
                km (7.5-mi) radius as well as aggregations of adjacent forested areas
                that were contiguous yet beyond 12 km (7.5 mi), if these areas
                contained significant upland or wetland forest (i.e., met 80-percent
                threshold, using applied 0.8-km (0.5-mi) grids). We also
                [[Page 35527]]
                considered RCW data and conservation lands, where applicable (see Data
                Sources, above). Using this approach, we identified aggregations of
                important high-quality, mixed habitat types in geographic regions. We
                subsequently evaluated these areas of high-quality habitat using
                additional occurrence data (June 2014 through 2019) and found a high
                degree of overlap between these data and areas previously identified in
                our analyses. Most notably, all newly discovered natural roosts (i.e.,
                those located in 2015 through 2019) were found in high-quality forested
                habitats within our identified areas.
                 Using the approaches described above, we delineated a total of five
                areas considered to be occupied at the time of listing (see Occupancy
                at the Time of Listing, above) as critical habitat for the Florida
                bonneted bat. One of these areas consists primarily of lands within
                APAFR, an area with well-documented occurrence and roosting, as well as
                areas surrounding the Kissimmee River, which are likely important for
                connectivity but lack general survey information. Due to the latter, we
                revised the boundaries of this area to conform to the boundaries of
                APAFR. APAFR is covered by an approved integrated natural resources
                management plan (INRMP) that provides benefits to the Florida bonneted
                bat and its habitat and thus will be exempted from the proposed
                designation under section 4(a)(3)(B)(i) of the Act (see Exemptions,
                below). The four remaining critical habitat units proposed for
                designation are described below (see Proposed Critical Habitat
                Designation, below).
                 We are not proposing to designate any areas outside the
                geographical area occupied by the species at the time of listing
                because we did not find any unoccupied areas to be essential for the
                conservation of the species. We determined that a critical habitat
                designation limited to geographical areas occupied by the species is
                adequate to ensure the conservation of the species. The occupied areas
                identified for designation provide for the conservation of the Florida
                bonneted bat because they provide ecological diversity (i.e.,
                representation), and duplication and distribution of populations across
                the range of the species (i.e., redundancy), allowing the species to
                withstand catastrophic events. Additionally, the areas are sufficiently
                large to allow for populations with adequate resiliency. All areas
                proposed as critical habitat are within the geographical area occupied
                by the bat at the time of listing and contain the PBFs essential to the
                conservation of the species.
                 When determining proposed critical habitat boundaries, we made
                every effort to avoid including large areas of agriculture or developed
                areas such as lands devoid of native vegetation or covered by
                buildings, pavement, and other structures due to the general lack of
                PBFs for the Florida bonneted bat. The scale of the maps we prepared
                under the parameters for publication within the Code of Federal
                Regulations may not reflect the exclusion of such developed lands. Any
                such developed lands inadvertently left inside critical habitat
                boundaries shown on the maps of this proposed rule have been excluded
                by text in the proposed rule and are not proposed for designation as
                critical habitat. Therefore, if the critical habitat is finalized as
                proposed, a Federal action involving these developed lands would not
                trigger section 7 consultation with respect to critical habitat and the
                requirement of no adverse modification unless the specific action would
                affect the PBFs in the adjacent critical habitat.
                 The proposed critical habitat designation is defined by the map or
                maps, as modified by any accompanying regulatory text, presented at the
                end of this document in the rule portion. We include more detailed
                information on the boundaries of the proposed critical habitat
                designation in the preamble of this document. We will make the
                coordinates or plot points or both on which each map is based available
                to the public on http://www.regulations.gov at Docket No. FWS-R4-ES-
                2019-0106, on our internet sites http://www.fws.gov/verobeach/, and at
                the South Florida Ecological Services Office (see FOR FURTHER
                INFORMATION CONTACT, above).
                Proposed Critical Habitat Designation
                 We are proposing to designate four units of occupied habitat as
                critical habitat for the Florida bonneted bat. All four units are
                occupied (at the time of listing and currently, based on the most
                recent data available; see description of occupancy status, above).
                Portions of three of these units overlap with areas that have already
                been designated as critical habitat for six other federally listed
                species (table 1).
                 Table 1 lists the approximate area of each critical habitat unit,
                land ownership, and co-occurring listed species and critical habitat
                within each proposed critical habitat unit. Area values were computer-
                generated using GIS software, summed within each ownership category,
                and then rounded to the nearest whole number. Ownership was classified
                into one of six categories--Federal, Tribal (including lands held in
                trust by the Federal Government), State, county, local, or private/
                other (including nonprofit organizations)--by reviewing the most recent
                parcel ownership data provided by each county. Where ownership is
                classified as ``Unidentified,'' it means that ownership of that area
                could not be determined for one or more of the following reasons: (1)
                Records within parcel data missing ownership data or marked as no data,
                abandoned, no value, or reference only (may include roads of
                unidentified ownership), and (2) areas missing from parcel data for
                which ownership could not be determined and accurately calculated
                (e.g., some roads, rights-of-way, and surface waters).
                 The four areas we propose as critical habitat are:
                 (1) Unit 1: Peace River and surrounding areas (Charlotte, DeSoto,
                Hardee, and Sarasota Counties);
                 (2) Unit 2: Babcock-Webb WMA, Babcock Ranch, and surrounding areas
                (Charlotte, Lee, and Glades Counties);
                 (3) Unit 3: Big Cypress and surrounding areas (Collier, Monroe, and
                Hendry Counties); and
                 (4) Unit 4: Miami-Dade natural areas (Miami-Dade County).
                [[Page 35528]]
                 Table 1--Florida Bonneted Bat Proposed Critical Habitat Units, Including Hectares (ha) and Acres (ac) by Land
                 Ownership Type, and Co-Occurring Listed Species and Designated Critical Habitat Found in Each Unit
                ----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
                 Co-occurring listed
                 species or existing
                 critical habitat (ha
                 Unit Ownership Area (ha (ac)) (ac)) for listed species
                 (E = endangered; T =
                 threatened)
                ----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
                Unit 1--Peace River and State........................ 4,537 (11,212) Audubon's crested
                 surrounding areas. County....................... 119 (295) caracara (T); wood
                 Local........................ 13 (32) stork (T); Britton's
                 Private and Other............ 14,087 (34,810) beargrass (E); Lewton's
                 Unidentified................. 793 (1,960) polygala (E); pygmy
                 fringe-tree (E);
                 Florida panther (E);
                 eastern indigo snake
                 (T); West Indian
                 manatee (T, CH = 507 ha
                 [1,254 ac]).
                 ----------------------
                 Total........................ ............................. 19,550 (48,310)
                ----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
                Unit 2--Babcock-Webb WMA, Babcock Federal...................... 1 (3) Florida panther (E);
                 Ranch, and surrounding areas. State........................ 61,128 (151,050) Audubon's crested
                 County....................... 3,724 (9,203) caracara (T); Florida
                 Local........................ 8 (21) scrub-jay (T); red-
                 Private and Other 32,001 (79,077) cockaded woodpecker
                 Unidentified. 642 (1,587) (E); wood stork (T);
                 beautiful pawpaw (E);
                 eastern indigo snake
                 (T); West Indian
                 manatee (T).
                 Total........................ ............................. 97,505 (240,941)
                ----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
                Unit 3--Big Cypress and Federal...................... 250,733 (619,573) Audubon's crested
                 surrounding areas. Tribal....................... 10,527 (26,012) caracara (T); Cape
                 State........................ 61,869 (152,882) Sable seaside sparrow
                 County....................... 3,384 (8,362) (E); red-cockaded
                 Local........................ 173 (427) woodpecker (E); wood
                 Private and Other 38,227 (94,460) stork (T); Florida
                 Unidentified. 1,920 (4,745) panther (E); eastern
                 indigo snake (T); West
                 Indian manatee (T, CH =
                 3,868 ha [9,557 ac]).
                 Total........................ ............................. 366,833 (906,462)
                ----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
                Unit 4--Miami-Dade natural areas. Federal...................... 71,385 (176,395) West Indian manatee (T);
                 Tribal....................... 326 (805) Florida panther (E);
                 State........................ 26,159 (64,639) Cape Sable seaside
                 County....................... 4,210 (10,404) sparrow (E, CH = 21,491
                 Local........................ 114 (281) ha [53,104 ac]);
                 Private and Other............ 11,496 (28,408) Everglade snail kite
                 Unidentified................. 683 (1,688) (E, CH = 2,000 ha
                 [4,941 ac]); wood stork
                 (T); eastern indigo
                 snake (T); Bartram's
                 scrub-hairstreak (E, CH
                 = 3,235 ha [7,994 ac]);
                 Garber's spurge [T];
                 American crocodile (T,
                 CH = 17,242 ha [42,606
                 ac]); Florida leafwing
                 (E, CH = 3,235 ha
                 [7,994 ac]); sand flax
                 (E); Blodgett's
                 silverbush (T); Miami
                 tiger beetle (E);
                 Florida bristle fern
                 (E).
                 ----------------------
                 Total........................ ............................. 114,372 (282,620)
                 ----------------------
                 Total.................... ............................. 598,261 (1,478,333)
                ----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
                Note: WMA = Wildlife Management Area.
                 We present brief descriptions of all units, and reasons why they
                meet the definition of critical habitat for the Florida bonneted bat,
                below.
                Unit 1: Peace River and Surrounding Areas (Charlotte, DeSoto, Hardee,
                and Sarasota Counties, Florida)
                 Unit 1 consists of 19,550 ha (48,310 ac) of lands in Charlotte,
                DeSoto, Hardee, and Sarasota Counties, Florida. This unit is located
                along the Peace River and its tributaries (e.g., Charlie Creek), south
                of CR-64 with the majority generally west of US-17. Unit 1 consists of
                approximately 4,537 ha (11,212 ac) of State-owned land, 119 ha (295 ac)
                of County-owned land, 13 ha (32 ac) of locally owned land, 14,087 ha
                (34,810 ac) of private and other lands, and 793 ha (1,960 ac) of land
                of unidentified ownership (table 1). The largest landholding within
                this unit is the RV Griffin Reserve. Other smaller conservation lands
                also occur within this unit (see Conservation Lands, Supporting
                Documents). We consider this unit as occupied at the time of listing
                based on documented presence of bonneted bats within the unit (see
                Occupancy at the Time of Listing, above).
                 Unit 1 contains five of the seven PBFs for the bonneted bat (i.e.,
                PBFs 2, 3, 4, 6, and 7). While this unit contains representative forest
                types that support the species by providing roosting and foraging
                habitat, it consists of area primarily outside of the bat's core areas
                (i.e., does not possess all features described in PBF 1). Because of
                its relative small size, this unit also does not possess all features
                described in PBF 5. However, Unit 1 encompasses a known movement
                corridor (generally connecting individuals between Unit 2 and APAFR)
                and adds ecological diversity (a natural river corridor) to the overall
                proposed designated areas. In addition, the Peace River and adjacent
                forested lands maintain high habitat suitability, providing open water
                and likely abundant prey.
                 The PBFs essential to the conservation of the Florida bonneted bat
                in Unit 1 may require special management considerations or protection
                due to the following: Habitat loss, fragmentation, and degradation
                resulting from development and land conversion; impacts from land
                management practices (e.g., timber management and fuels reduction,
                prescribed fire, management of nonnative and invasive species, habitat
                restoration) or lack of suitable habitat management; wind energy; and
                pesticide use.
                [[Page 35529]]
                Unit 2: Babcock-Webb WMA, Babcock Ranch, and Surrounding Areas
                (Charlotte, Lee, and Glades Counties, Florida)
                 Unit 2 consists of 97,505 ha (240,941 ac) of lands in Charlotte,
                Lee, and Glades Counties, Florida. The majority of Unit 2 is located in
                Charlotte County, east of I-75; other portions are in northern Lee and
                western Glades Counties. This unit consists of approximately 1 ha (3
                ac) of Federal land, 61,128 ha (151,050 ac) of State-owned land, 3,724
                ha (9,203 ac) of County-owned land, 8 ha (21 ac) of locally owned land,
                32,001 ha (79,077 ac) of private and other lands, and 642 ha (1,587 ac)
                of land of unidentified ownership (table 1). The largest land holdings
                within this unit are Babcock-Webb WMA and Babcock Ranch Preserve; other
                smaller conservation lands also occur within this unit (see
                Conservation Lands, Supporting Documents).
                 Unit 2 represents the westernmost portion of the species' core
                areas. This unit was occupied at the time of listing, is currently
                occupied, and contains all of the PBFs for the bonneted bat. Babcock-
                Webb WMA and surrounding areas support the largest abundance known
                (approximately 79 bonneted bats), and the bulk of all known roost sites
                (Myers, pers. comm. 2015; Gore, pers. comm. 2016; Ober, pers. comm.
                2014; Braun de Torrez, pers. comm. 2016).
                 The PBFs essential to the conservation of the Florida bonneted bat
                in Unit 2 may require special management considerations or protection
                due to the following: Habitat loss, fragmentation, and degradation
                resulting from development (including oil and gas exploration) and land
                conversion; impacts from land management practices (e.g., timber
                management and fuels reduction, prescribed fire, management of
                nonnative and invasive species, habitat restoration) or lack of
                suitable habitat management; impacts from coastal squeeze; and
                pesticide use.
                Unit 3: Big Cypress and Surrounding Areas (Collier, Monroe, and Hendry
                Counties, Florida)
                 Unit 3 consists of 366,833 ha (906,462 ac) of lands in Collier,
                Monroe, and Hendry Counties, Florida. The majority of Unit 3 is located
                in Collier County, south of I-75; the remainder occurs in southern
                Hendry County and mainland portions of Monroe County. This unit
                consists of approximately 250,733 ha (619,573 ac) of Federal land,
                10,527 ha (26,012 ac) of Tribal land, 61,869 ha (152,882 ac) of State-
                owned land, 3,384 ha (8,362 ac) of County-owned land, 173 ha (427 ac)
                of locally owned land, 38,227 ha (94,460 ac) of private and other
                lands, and 1,920 ha (4,745 ac) of land of unidentified ownership (table
                1). The largest land holdings within Unit 3 are BCNP, PSSF, FSPSP, ENP,
                and FPNWR. Other smaller conservation lands also occur within this unit
                (see Conservation Lands, Supporting Documents). This unit was occupied
                at the time of listing, is currently occupied, and contains all of the
                PBFs for the bonneted bat.
                 Unit 3 represents the southwestern portion of the species' core
                areas. The species has been documented to use many locations throughout
                the unit (specifically, within BCNP, PSSF, FSPSP, and FPNWR) (see table
                1 of the final listing rule (78 FR 61004, October 2, 2013)). The
                discoveries of three natural roosts in 2015 and 2016 further
                demonstrate the relevance and importance of Unit 3.
                 The PBFs essential to the conservation of the Florida bonneted bat
                in Unit 3 may require special management considerations or protection
                due to the following: Habitat loss, fragmentation, and degradation
                resulting from development (including oil and gas exploration) and land
                conversion; impacts from land management practices (e.g., timber
                management and fuels reduction, prescribed fire, management of
                nonnative and invasive species, habitat restoration) or lack of
                suitable habitat management; impacts from climate change and coastal
                squeeze; and pesticide use.
                 Approximately 10,527 ha (26,012 ac) of Tribal lands occur within
                Unit 3, including lands within the Seminole Big Cypress Reservation and
                the Miccosukee Sherrod Ranch. All or some of these lands may be
                excluded from the final critical habitat designation under section
                4(b)(2) of the Act (see Exclusions Based on Other Relevant Impacts
                under the Exclusions section of this rule).
                Unit 4: Miami-Dade Natural Areas (Miami-Dade County, Florida)
                 Unit 4 consists of 114,372 ha (282,620 ac) of lands in Miami-Dade
                County, Florida. Unit 4 consists mostly of conservation lands west of
                the Florida Turnpike. This unit consists of approximately 71,385 ha
                (176,395 ac) of Federal land, 326 ha (805 ac) of Tribal land, 26,159 ha
                (64,639 ac) of State-owned land, 4,210 ha (10,404 ac) of County-owned
                land, 114 ha (281 ac) of locally owned land, 11,496 ha (28,408 ac) of
                private and other lands, and 683 ha (1,688 ac) of land of unidentified
                ownership (table 1). The largest land holding within this unit is ENP;
                other smaller conservation lands also occur within this unit (see
                Conservation Lands, Supporting Documents). This unit was occupied at
                the time of listing, is currently occupied, and contains all of the
                PBFs for the bonneted bat.
                 Unit 4 represents the eastern portion of the species' core areas
                and includes the bulk of the remaining high-quality natural habitat in
                the species' former strongholds on the east coast (Belwood 1992, pp.
                216-217, 219; Timm and Genoways 2004, p. 857; Timm and Arroyo-Cabrales
                2008, p. 1; Solari 2016, pp. 1-2; see Historical Distribution, proposed
                listing rule (77 FR 60750, October 4, 2012)). This area may be the last
                remaining predominantly natural occupied habitat on the east coast of
                Florida.
                 The PBFs essential to the conservation of the Florida bonneted bat
                in Unit 4 may require special management considerations or protection
                due to the following: Habitat loss, fragmentation, and degradation
                resulting from development and land conversion; impacts from land
                management practices (e.g., timber management and fuels reduction,
                prescribed fire, management of nonnative and invasive species, habitat
                restoration) or lack of suitable habitat management; impacts from
                climate change and coastal squeeze; and pesticide use.
                 Approximately 326 ha (805 ac) of Tribal lands occur within Unit 4,
                including lands that are part of the Miccosukee Resort and Gaming
                Center. All or some of these lands may be excluded from the final
                critical habitat designation under section 4(b)(2) of the Act (see
                Exclusions Based on Other Relevant Impacts under the Exclusions section
                of this rule).
                Effects of Critical Habitat Designation
                Section 7 Consultation
                 Section 7(a)(2) of the Act requires Federal agencies, including the
                Service, to ensure that any action they fund, authorize, or carry out
                is not likely to jeopardize the continued existence of any endangered
                species or threatened species or result in the destruction or adverse
                modification of designated critical habitat of such species. In
                addition, section 7(a)(4) of the Act requires Federal agencies to
                confer with the Service on any agency action which is likely to
                jeopardize the continued existence of any species proposed to be listed
                under the Act or result in the destruction or adverse modification of
                proposed critical habitat.
                [[Page 35530]]
                 We published a final regulation with a revised definition of
                destruction or adverse modification on August 27, 2019 (84 FR 44976).
                Destruction or adverse modification means a direct or indirect
                alteration that appreciably diminishes the value of critical habitat as
                a whole for the conservation of a listed species.
                 If a Federal action may affect a listed species or its critical
                habitat, the responsible Federal agency (action agency) must enter into
                consultation with us. Examples of actions that are subject to the
                section 7 consultation process are actions on State, Tribal, local, or
                private lands that require a Federal permit (such as a permit from the
                U.S. Army Corps of Engineers under section 404 of the Clean Water Act
                (33 U.S.C. 1251 et seq.) or a permit from the Service under section 10
                of the Act) or that involve some other Federal action (such as funding
                from the Federal Highway Administration, Federal Aviation
                Administration, or the Federal Emergency Management Agency). Federal
                actions not affecting listed species or critical habitat, and actions
                on State, Tribal, local, or private lands that are not federally funded
                or authorized, do not require section 7 consultation.
                 Compliance with the requirements of section 7(a)(2) is documented
                through our issuance of:
                 (1) A concurrence letter for Federal actions that may affect, but
                are not likely to adversely affect, listed species or critical habitat;
                or
                 (2) A biological opinion for Federal actions that may affect and
                are likely to adversely affect, listed species or critical habitat.
                 When we issue a biological opinion concluding that a project is
                likely to jeopardize the continued existence of a listed species and/or
                destroy or adversely modify critical habitat, we provide reasonable and
                prudent alternatives to the project, if any are identifiable, that
                would avoid the likelihood of jeopardy and/or destruction or adverse
                modification of critical habitat. We define ``reasonable and prudent
                alternatives'' (at 50 CFR 402.02) as alternative actions identified
                during consultation that:
                 (1) Can be implemented in a manner consistent with the intended
                purpose of the action,
                 (2) Can be implemented consistent with the scope of the Federal
                agency's legal authority and jurisdiction,
                 (3) Are economically and technologically feasible, and
                 (4) Would, in the Service Director's opinion, avoid the likelihood
                of jeopardizing the continued existence of the listed species and/or
                avoid the likelihood of destroying or adversely modifying critical
                habitat.
                 Reasonable and prudent alternatives can vary from slight project
                modifications to extensive redesign or relocation of the project. Costs
                associated with implementing a reasonable and prudent alternative are
                similarly variable.
                 Regulations at 50 CFR 402.16 set forth requirements for Federal
                agencies to reinitiate formal consultation on previously reviewed
                actions. Consultation should generally be reinitiated where the Federal
                agency has retained discretionary involvement or control over the
                action (or the agency's discretionary involvement or control is
                authorized by law) and, subsequent to the previous consultation, we
                have listed a new species or designated critical habitat that may be
                affected by the Federal action, the action has been modified in a
                manner that affects the species or critical habitat in a way not
                considered in the previous consultation, the amount of take has
                exceeded what was included in the incidental take statement, or new
                information reveals effects of the action that may affect listed
                species or their critical habitat in ways that were not considered. In
                such situations, Federal agencies may need to request reinitiation of
                consultation with us; however, the regulations provide an exception to
                the requirement to reinitiate consultation where a new species has been
                listed or critical habitat designated for certain land management
                plans. Please refer to the regulations for a description of that
                exception.
                Application of the ``Adverse Modification'' Standard
                 The key factor related to the destruction or adverse modification
                determination is whether implementation of the proposed Federal action
                directly or indirectly alters the designated critical habitat in a way
                that appreciably diminishes the value of the critical habitat as a
                whole for the conservation of the listed species. As discussed above,
                the role of critical habitat is to support PBFs essential to the
                conservation of a listed species and other specific areas that are
                essential to provide for the conservation of the species.
                 Section 4(b)(8) of the Act requires us to briefly evaluate and
                describe, in any proposed or final regulation that designates critical
                habitat, activities involving a Federal action that may violate 7(a)(2)
                of the Act by destroying or adversely modifying such habitat, or that
                may be affected by such designation.
                 Activities that the Services may, during a consultation under
                section 7(a)(2) of the Act, find are likely to destroy or adversely
                modify critical habitat include, but are not limited to:
                 (1) Actions that would significantly alter roosting, foraging, or
                dispersal habitat. Such activities may include, but are not limited to:
                Residential, commercial, or recreational development including
                associated infrastructure; clearcutting, deforestation or habitat
                conversion for large-scale or intensive agriculture, mining (e.g., oil/
                gas exploration), industry (e.g., wind energy), or other development;
                water diversion, drainage, or wetland loss or conversion. These
                activities could destroy Florida bonneted bat roosting and foraging
                sites (necessary for shelter and reproduction); reduce habitat
                conditions below what is necessary for survival and growth; and/or
                eliminate or reduce the habitat necessary for successful reproduction,
                growth, dispersal, and expansion (see Physical or Biological Features,
                above).
                 (2) Actions that would significantly alter vegetation structure or
                composition. Such activities could include, but are not limited to:
                Removal of forest or other areas with large or mature trees and other
                natural areas with suitable structures (i.e., tall or mature live or
                dead trees, tree snags, and trees with cavities, hollows, or crevices);
                suppression of natural fires; prescribed fire conducted in a manner
                that does not insure protection of large trees and/or snags; timber
                management or fuel reduction (e.g., thinning); control of invasive
                nonnative vegetation; habitat conversions or restorations; creation or
                maintenance of trails or firebreaks; or clearing native vegetation for
                construction of residential, commercial, agricultural, industrial, or
                recreational development and associated infrastructure. These
                activities could destroy Florida bonneted bat roosting sites; reduce
                foraging habitat and prey base; reduce habitat conditions below what is
                necessary for survival and growth; and/or eliminate or reduce the
                habitat necessary for successful reproduction, growth, dispersal, and
                expansion (see Physical or Biological Features, above).
                 (3) Actions that would significantly reduce suitability of habitat,
                alter behavior or movement of the Florida bonneted bat, or impact prey
                base (e.g., availability, abundance, density, diversity). In addition
                to altering habitat, vegetation, or structure (given above), this
                includes, but is not limited to: Widespread application of pesticides;
                exposure to contaminants (e.g., direct or through drinking water or
                [[Page 35531]]
                food chain); excessive alteration of natural lighting (that disrupts
                movements or foraging conditions or impacts prey); introduction of
                biocontrol agents; creation and operation of wind energy facilities;
                non-natural changes in hydrology; or other disturbances (e.g.,
                excessive noise, excessive temperature) that impact prey or alter
                behavior, movement, or ability to echolocate. These activities could
                alter conditions beyond the species' tolerance, adversely affect
                individuals and their life cycles, reduce habitat suitability, or
                impact prey base, thereby affecting conditions necessary for survival,
                reproduction, growth, dispersal, and expansion (see Physical or
                Biological Features, above).
                 (4) Actions that would result in an increased competition for
                suitable roost sites or increased risk of predation. Possible actions
                could include, but are not limited to: Removal of suitable roosting
                structures (e.g., mature trees or snags); management actions that
                discourage the retention of suitable roosting structures either now or
                in the future; lack of management with regard to the release of
                nonnative or introduced species (e.g., nonnative snakes). These
                activities can increase competition for tree cavities or other limited
                roosting habitat, introduce disease or pathogens, or increase
                predation, thereby affecting conditions for survival, growth, and
                reproduction (see Physical or Biological Features, above).
                Exemptions
                Application of Section 4(a)(3) of the Act
                 The Sikes Act Improvement Act of 1997 (Sikes Act) (16 U.S.C. 670a)
                required each military installation that includes land and water
                suitable for the conservation and management of natural resources to
                complete an INRMP by November 17, 2001. An INRMP integrates
                implementation of the military mission of the installation with
                stewardship of the natural resources found on the base. Each INRMP
                includes:
                 (1) An assessment of the ecological needs on the installation,
                including the need to provide for the conservation of listed species;
                 (2) A statement of goals and priorities;
                 (3) A detailed description of management actions to be implemented
                to provide for these ecological needs; and
                 (4) A monitoring and adaptive management plan.
                 Among other things, each INRMP must, to the extent appropriate and
                applicable, provide for fish and wildlife management; fish and wildlife
                habitat enhancement or modification; wetland protection, enhancement,
                and restoration where necessary to support fish and wildlife; and
                enforcement of applicable natural resource laws.
                 The National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2004 (Pub.
                L. 108-136) amended the Act to limit areas eligible for designation as
                critical habitat. Specifically, section 4(a)(3)(B)(i) of the Act (16
                U.S.C. 1533(a)(3)(B)(i)) provides that: ``The Secretary shall not
                designate as critical habitat any lands or other geographic areas owned
                or controlled by the Department of Defense (DoD), or designated for its
                use, that are subject to an INRMP prepared under section 101 of the
                Sikes Act (16 U.S.C. 670a), if the Secretary determines in writing that
                such plan provides a benefit to the species for which critical habitat
                is proposed for designation.''
                 We consult with the military on the development and implementation
                of INRMPs for installations with listed species. We analyzed INRMPs
                developed by military installations located within the range of the
                proposed critical habitat designation for the Florida bonneted bat to
                determine if they meet the criteria for exemption from critical habitat
                under section 4(a)(3) of the Act. The following area owned by DoD is
                covered by an INRMP within the proposed critical habitat designation.
                Avon Park Air Force Range (APAFR)
                 The APAFR, located in Polk County, has a current and completed
                INRMP, signed by FWC and the Service in September 2017. The INRMP
                provides conservation measures for the species and management of
                important upland and wetland habitats on the base (U.S. Air Force 2017,
                pp. 9-10, 55-56, 74, 77, 90-91, 95, 97).
                 APAFR's INRMP benefits the Florida bonneted bat through ongoing
                ecosystem management, and specifically active management of RCW
                habitat, which should provide habitat for the species (U.S. Air Force
                2017, pp. 9-10, 55). Some major goals identified in the plan that
                should benefit the bonneted bat include: (1) Maintaining and restoring
                ecosystem composition, structure, and function with a special emphasis
                on rare and endemic communities (e.g., pine flatwoods); (2) using
                ecological processes such as fire as the primary tool for restoring
                ecosystems; (3) managing or restoring hydrological function of
                floodplains, groundwater, lakes, riparian areas, springs, swamps,
                streams, and wetlands to protect and ensure their quality and
                ecological functions; (4) conserving, protecting, and recovering
                endangered and threatened species; and (5) identifying the presence of
                exotic and invasive species and implementing programs to control or
                eradicate those species from the installation (U.S. Air Force 2017, pp.
                9-10).
                 In addition, AFAPR's INRMP includes the following specific projects
                to benefit the bonneted bat: (1) Annual acoustic surveys to determine
                presence of Florida bonneted bats, implemented on a 3-year rotation
                (covering one-third of the approximately 24,281 ha (60,000 ac) of
                available suitable habitat annually); (2) as-needed intensive acoustic
                and roost search surveys in areas identified during annual acoustic
                monitoring; (3) daily acoustic monitoring of all known roosts to
                provide long-term presence/absence and roosting activity measures; (4)
                retention of snags within known bonneted bat roosting habitat (except
                within firebreaks); and (5) invasive plant treatments, supplemented
                through the FWC Upland Invasive Species contracts and FWC Herbicide
                Bank (U.S. Air Force 2017, pp. 91, 95, and 97). The APAFR's INRMP also
                includes a commitment to investigate the feasibility of monitoring
                bonneted bat movement patterns using radio telemetry (U.S. Air Force
                2017, p. 91). As part of this effort, the Air Force has worked with UF
                and FWC to capture and radio track bats to find a total of five natural
                roosts as of July 2019 (R. Aldredge, pers. comm. 2019c). The bonneted
                bat will also benefit from APAFR's INRMP measures guiding fire
                management, including wildfire suppression and adaptive/proactive
                prescribed fire to meet species-specific conservation measures and
                habitat goals (U.S. Air Force 2017, pp. 90, 95).
                 Based on the above considerations, and in accordance with section
                4(a)(3)(B)(i) of the Act, we have determined that the identified lands
                are subject to the APAFR's INRMP and that conservation efforts
                identified in the INRMP will provide benefits to the Florida bonneted
                bat and the features essential to the species occurring on the base.
                Therefore, lands within APAFR are exempt from critical habitat
                designation under section 4(a)(3) of the Act. We are not including
                approximately 43,740 ha (108,082 ac) of habitat in this proposed
                critical habitat designation because of this exemption.
                Exclusions
                Consideration of Impacts Under Section 4(b)(2) of the Act
                 Section 4(b)(2) of the Act states that the Secretary shall
                designate and make revisions to critical habitat on the basis of the
                best available scientific data after
                [[Page 35532]]
                taking into consideration the economic impact, national security
                impact, and any other relevant impact of specifying any particular area
                as critical habitat. The Secretary may exclude an area from critical
                habitat if he determines that the benefits of such exclusion outweigh
                the benefits of specifying such area as part of the critical habitat,
                unless he determines, based on the best scientific data available, that
                the failure to designate such area as critical habitat will result in
                the extinction of the species. In making that determination, the
                statute on its face, as well as the legislative history, are clear that
                the Secretary has broad discretion regarding which factor(s) to use and
                how much weight to give to any factor.
                 When identifying the benefits of inclusion for an area, we consider
                the additional regulatory benefits that area would receive due to the
                protection from destruction of adverse modification as a result of
                actions with a Federal nexus; the educational benefits of mapping
                essential habitat for recovery of the listed species; and any benefits
                that may result from a designation due to State or Federal laws that
                may apply to critical habitat.
                 When considering the benefits of exclusion, we consider, among
                other things, whether exclusion of a specific area is likely to result
                in conservation; the continuation, strengthening, or encouragement of
                partnerships; or implementation of a management plan. In the case of
                the Florida bonneted bat, the benefits of critical habitat include
                public awareness of the presence of the bat and the importance of
                habitat protection, and, where a Federal nexus exists, increased
                habitat protection for the bat due to protection from adverse
                modification or destruction of critical habitat. Additionally,
                continued implementation of an ongoing management plan that provides
                equal to or more conservation than a critical habitat designation would
                reduce the benefits of including that specific area in the critical
                habitat designation. In practice, situations with a Federal nexus exist
                primarily on Federal lands or for projects funded by, undertaken by, or
                authorized by Federal agencies.
                 We evaluate the existence of a conservation plan when considering
                the benefits of inclusion. We consider a variety of factors, including
                but not limited to, whether the plan is finalized; how it provides for
                the conservation of the essential physical or biological features;
                whether there is a reasonable expectation that the conservation
                management strategies and actions contained in a management plan will
                be implemented into the future; whether the conservation strategies in
                the plan are likely to be effective; and whether the plan contains a
                monitoring program or adaptive management to ensure that the
                conservation measures are effective and can be adapted in the future in
                response to new information.
                 After identifying the benefits of inclusion and the benefits of
                exclusion, we carefully weigh the two sides to evaluate whether the
                benefits of exclusion outweigh those of inclusion. If our analysis
                indicates that the benefits of exclusion outweigh the benefits of
                inclusion, we then determine whether exclusion would result in
                extinction of the species. If exclusion of an area from critical
                habitat will result in extinction, we will not exclude it from the
                designation.
                 We are considering whether to exclude the following areas under
                section 4(b)(2) of the Act from the final critical habitat designation
                for the Florida bonneted bat: (1) In Unit 3, approximately 10,527 ha
                (26,012 ac) of Tribal lands, including lands within the Seminole Big
                Cypress Reservation and the Miccosukee Sherrod Ranch; and (2) in Unit
                4, approximately 326 ha (805 ac) of Tribal lands, including lands that
                are part of the Miccosukee Resort and Gaming Center.
                 However, we specifically solicit comments on the inclusion or
                exclusion of such areas or any other areas that may justify exclusion.
                In the paragraphs below, we provide a description of our consideration
                of these lands for exclusion under section 4(b)(2) of the Act. The
                final decision on whether to exclude any areas will be based on the
                best scientific data available at the time of the final designation,
                including information obtained during the comment period and
                information about the economic impact of designation.
                Exclusions Based on Economic Impacts
                 Under section 4(b)(2) of the Act, we consider the economic impacts
                of specifying any particular area as critical habitat. In order to
                consider economic impacts, we prepared an analysis of the probable
                economic impacts of the proposed critical habitat designation and
                related factors.
                 Potential land use sectors that may be affected by the proposed
                critical habitat designation include agriculture; conservation/
                restoration; residential, commercial, industrial or recreational
                development and associated infrastructure; dredging; fire management;
                forest management including silviculture/timber; grazing; recreation;
                transportation; Tribal lands; utilities; energy supply, distribution,
                and use; and water diversion, drainage, or wetland loss or conversion.
                There is a Federal nexus associated with each of these economic
                activities when they occur on Federal lands. However, some activities
                on State, County, private, or other lands may not have a Federal nexus
                and, therefore, may not be subject to section 7 consultations. These
                may include agriculture (including use of pesticides); development and
                utilities (including alteration of natural lighting); fire and forest
                management; grazing; recreation; and loss, diversion, or conversion of
                wetlands not regulated by the Clean Water Act. Exceptions may include:
                (1) Lands slated for large-scale private development, which may require
                National Pollutant Discharge Elimination System permits from the
                Environmental Protection Agency or section 404 permits from the Army
                Corps of Engineers; (2) road-related improvements that involve U.S.
                Department of Transportation funding; or (3) other land-disturbing
                actions that require section 404 permits.
                 To assess the probable economic impacts of a designation, we must
                first evaluate specific land uses or activities and projects that may
                occur in the area of the critical habitat. We then must evaluate the
                impacts that a specific critical habitat designation may have on
                restricting or modifying specific land uses or activities for the
                benefit of the species and its habitat within the areas proposed. We
                then identify which conservation efforts may be the result of the
                species being listed under the Act versus those attributed solely to
                the designation of critical habitat for this particular species. The
                probable economic impact of a proposed critical habitat designation is
                analyzed by comparing scenarios both ``with critical habitat'' and
                ``without critical habitat.'' The ``without critical habitat'' scenario
                represents the baseline for the analysis, which includes the existing
                regulatory and socio-economic burden imposed on landowners, managers,
                or other resource users potentially affected by the designation of
                critical habitat (e.g., under the Federal listing as well as other
                Federal, State, and local regulations). The baseline, therefore,
                represents the costs of all efforts attributable to the listing of the
                species under the Act (i.e., conservation of the species and its
                habitat incurred regardless of whether critical habitat is designated).
                The ``with critical habitat'' scenario describes the incremental
                impacts associated specifically with the designation of critical
                habitat for the species. The incremental conservation efforts and
                associated impacts would not be expected without the designation
                [[Page 35533]]
                of critical habitat for the species. In other words, the incremental
                costs are those attributable solely to the designation of critical
                habitat, above and beyond the baseline costs. These are the costs we
                use when evaluating the benefits of inclusion and exclusion of
                particular areas from the final designation of critical habitat should
                we choose to conduct a discretionary 4(b)(2) exclusion analysis.
                 For this designation, we developed an incremental effects
                memorandum (IEM; Service 2020) considering the probable incremental
                economic impacts that may result from this proposed designation of
                critical habitat. The information contained in our IEM was then used to
                develop a screening analysis of the probable effects of the designation
                of critical habitat for the Florida bonneted bat (Industrial Economics,
                Incorporated (IEc) 2020). We began by conducting a screening analysis
                of the proposed designation of critical habitat in order to focus our
                analysis on the key factors that are likely to result in incremental
                economic impacts. The purpose of the screening analysis is to filter
                out the geographic areas in which the critical habitat designation is
                unlikely to result in probable incremental economic impacts. In
                particular, the screening analysis considers baseline costs (i.e.,
                absent critical habitat designation) and includes probable economic
                impacts where land and water use may be subject to conservation plans,
                land management plans, best management practices, or regulations that
                protect the habitat area as a result of the Federal listing status of
                the species. The screening analysis filters out particular areas of
                critical habitat that are already subject to such protections and are,
                therefore, unlikely to incur incremental economic impacts. Ultimately,
                the screening analysis allows us to focus our analysis on evaluating
                the specific areas or sectors that may incur probable incremental
                economic impacts as a result of the designation. The screening analysis
                also assesses whether units are unoccupied by the species and may
                require additional management or conservation efforts as a result of
                the critical habitat designation for the species which may incur
                incremental economic impacts. This screening analysis combined with the
                information contained in our IEM are what we consider our DEA of the
                proposed critical habitat designation for the Florida bonneted bat and
                is summarized in the narrative below.
                 Executive Orders (E.O.) 12866 and 13563 direct Federal agencies to
                assess the costs and benefits of available regulatory alternatives in
                quantitative (to the extent feasible) and qualitative terms. Consistent
                with the E.O. regulatory analysis requirements, our effects analysis
                under the Act may take into consideration impacts to both directly and
                indirectly impacted entities, where practicable and reasonable. If
                sufficient data are available, we assess to the extent practicable the
                probable impacts to both directly and indirectly impacted entities. As
                part of our screening analysis, we considered the types of economic
                activities that are likely to occur within the areas likely affected by
                the critical habitat designation. Our IEM identified probable
                incremental economic impacts that may result from the proposed
                designation of critical habitat for the Florida bonneted bat associated
                with the following categories of activities: Development; oil and gas
                exploration; wind energy; land management; prescribed fire; timber
                management and fuels reduction; grazing; wildlife, game, or listed
                species management; habitat restoration; control of nonnative species;
                pesticide application; and recreational activities. We considered each
                industry or category individually. Additionally, we considered whether
                their activities have any Federal involvement. Critical habitat
                designation will not affect activities that do not have any Federal
                involvement; designation of critical habitat only affects activities
                conducted, funded, permitted, or authorized by Federal agencies. In
                areas where the Florida bonneted bat is present, Federal agencies
                already are required to consult with the Service under section 7 of the
                Act on activities they fund, permit, or implement that may affect the
                species. If we finalize this proposed critical habitat designation,
                consultations to avoid the destruction or adverse modification of
                critical habitat would be incorporated into the existing consultation
                process.
                 In our IEM, we attempted to clarify the distinction between the
                effects that result from the species being listed and those
                attributable to the critical habitat designation (i.e., difference
                between the jeopardy and adverse modification standards) for the
                Florida bonneted bat's critical habitat. The following specific
                circumstances in this case help to inform our evaluation: (1) The
                essential PBFs identified for critical habitat are the same features
                essential for the life requisites of the species, and (2) any actions
                that would result in sufficient harm or harassment to constitute
                jeopardy to the Florida bonneted bat would also likely adversely affect
                the essential PBFs of critical habitat. The IEM outlines our rationale
                concerning this limited distinction between baseline conservation
                efforts and incremental impacts of the designation of critical habitat
                for this species. This evaluation of the incremental effects has been
                used as the basis to evaluate the probable incremental economic impacts
                of this proposed designation of critical habitat.
                 Because all areas are occupied, the economic impacts of
                implementing the rule through section 7 of the Act will most likely be
                limited to additional administrative effort to consider adverse
                modification. This finding is based on the following factors:
                 Any activities with a Federal nexus occurring within
                occupied habitat will be subject to section 7 consultation requirements
                regardless of critical habitat designation, due to the presence of the
                listed species; and
                 In most cases, project modifications requested to avoid
                adverse modification are likely to be the same as those needed to avoid
                jeopardy in occupied habitat.
                 Our analysis considers the potential need to consult on
                development, transportation, land management, habitat restoration, and
                other activities authorized, undertaken, or funded by Federal agencies
                within critical habitat. The total incremental section 7 costs
                associated with the designation of the proposed units are estimated to
                be less than $239,000 per year (IEc 2020, pp. 2, 9). While the proposed
                critical habitat area is relatively large, totaling 598,261 ha
                (1,478,333 ac), the strong baseline protections that are already
                anticipated to exist for this species due to its listed status, the
                existence of a consultation area map that alerts managing agencies
                about the location of the species and its habitat, and the presence of
                other listed species in the area keep the costs comparatively low. The
                highest costs are expected in Unit 3, associated with anticipated
                future consultations within BCNP and ENP. However, based on recent
                changes to Service regulations, it is possible that some of these
                consultations, which may include reinitiations of land use plans, may
                not be required.
                 The designation of critical habitat may trigger additional
                regulatory changes. For example, the designation may cause other
                Federal, State, or local permitting or regulatory agencies to expand or
                change standards or requirements. Regulatory uncertainty generated by
                critical habitat may also have impacts. For example, landowners or
                buyers may perceive that the rule will restrict land or water use
                activities in some way and therefore value the use of the land less
                than they would have
                [[Page 35534]]
                absent critical habitat. This is a perception, or stigma, effect of
                critical habitat on markets. While the screening analysis was unable to
                quantify the degree to which the public's perception of possible
                restrictions on the use of private land designated as critical habitat
                could affect private property values, IEc (2020, p. 10) recognized that
                a number of factors may already result in perception-related effects on
                these private lands, including awareness of the species due to a
                previously existing consultation area map, and the presence of a large
                number of co-occurring listed species and existing critical habitat in
                these areas.
                 At this time, we are not considering any specific areas for
                exclusion from the final designation under section 4(b)(2) of the Act
                based on economic impacts. As we stated earlier, we are soliciting data
                and comments from the public on the DEA, as well as all aspects of the
                proposed rule and our amended required determinations. During the
                development of a final designation, we will consider any information
                currently available or received during the public comment period
                regarding the economic impacts of the proposed designation and will
                determine whether any specific areas should be excluded from the final
                critical habitat designation under authority of section 4(b)(2) and our
                implementing regulations at 50 CFR 424.19.
                Impacts on National Security and Homeland Security
                 Section 4(a)(3)(B)(i) of the Act may not apply to all DoD lands or
                areas that pose potential national-security concerns (e.g., a DoD
                installation that is in the process of revising its INRMP for a newly
                listed species or a species previously not covered). Nevertheless, when
                designating critical habitat under section 4(b)(2), the Service must
                consider impacts on national security, including homeland security, on
                lands or areas not covered by section 4(a)(3)(B)(i). Accordingly, we
                will always consider for exclusion from the designation areas for which
                DoD, Department of Homeland Security (DHS), or another Federal agency
                has requested exclusion based on an assertion of national-security or
                homeland-security concerns.
                 We cannot, however, automatically exclude requested areas. When
                DoD, DHS, or another Federal agency requests exclusion from critical
                habitat on the basis of national-security or homeland-security impacts,
                it must provide a reasonably specific justification of an incremental
                impact on national security that would result from the designation of
                that specific area as critical habitat. That justification could
                include demonstration of probable impacts, such as impacts to ongoing
                border-security patrols and surveillance activities, or a delay in
                training or facility construction, as a result of compliance with
                section 7(a)(2) of the Act. If the agency requesting the exclusion does
                not provide us with a reasonably specific justification, we will
                contact the agency to recommend that it provide a specific
                justification or clarification of its concerns relative to the probable
                incremental impact that could result from the designation. If the
                agency provides a reasonably specific justification, we will defer to
                the expert judgment of DoD, DHS, or another Federal agency as to: (1)
                Whether activities on its lands or waters, or its activities on other
                lands or waters, have national-security or homeland-security
                implications; (2) the importance of those implications; and (3) the
                degree to which the cited implications would be adversely affected in
                the absence of an exclusion. In that circumstance, in conducting a
                discretionary 4(b)(2) exclusion analysis, we will give great weight to
                national-security and homeland-security concerns in analyzing the
                benefits of exclusion.
                 Under section 4(b)(2) of the Act, we consider whether there are
                lands where a national security impact might exist. In preparing this
                proposal, we have determined that some lands within the proposed
                designation of critical habitat for the Florida bonneted bat are owned
                or managed by the DoD. We already discussed one area (APAFR) with an
                approved INRMP under Application of Section 4(a)(3) of the Act, above.
                There are other DoD lands (owned by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers)
                within the proposed critical habitat designation area. However, to
                date, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers has not expressed concern that
                the designation of these lands would have implications for national
                security. During the development of a final designation, we will
                consider any information currently available or received during the
                public comment period regarding the national security impacts of the
                proposed designation and will determine whether any specific areas
                should be excluded from the final critical habitat designation under
                authority of section 4(b)(2) and our implementing regulations at 50 CFR
                424.19.
                Exclusions Based on Other Relevant Impacts
                 Under section 4(b)(2) of the Act, we consider any other relevant
                impacts, in addition to economic impacts and impacts on national
                security. We consider a number of factors including whether there are
                permitted conservation plans covering the species in the area such as
                HCPs, safe harbor agreements, or candidate conservation agreements with
                assurances, or whether there are non-permitted conservation agreements
                and partnerships that would be encouraged by designation of, or
                exclusion from, critical habitat. In addition, we look at the existence
                of Tribal conservation plans and partnerships and consider the
                government-to-government relationship of the United States with Tribal
                entities. We also consider any social impacts that might occur because
                of the designation. We evaluate each potential exclusion on a case-by-
                case basis to determine whether the benefits of exclusion may outweigh
                the benefits of inclusion, with the understanding that we must
                designate such areas if the failure to do so would result in the
                extinction of the Florida bonneted bat.
                 The FWC's Species Action Plan (2013) describes actions necessary to
                improve the conservation status of the Florida bonneted bat, and a
                summary of the plan will be included in the Imperiled Species
                Management Plan, in satisfaction of management plan requirements in
                chapter 68A-27, Florida Administrative Code, Rules Relating to
                Endangered or Threatened Species (FWC 2013, p. iii). The management
                planning process relies heavily on stakeholder input and partner
                support (FWC 2013, p. iii). The plan is voluntary and non-binding, and
                dependent upon the FWC and other agencies, organizations, and other
                partners (FWC 2013, entire). Most of the actions involve monitoring and
                research, and are not location or habitat-specific (FWC 2013, pp. 24-
                26). Therefore, we are not proposing to exclude any units based on this
                plan.
                 We seek information regarding any and all types of conservation
                programs and plans relevant to the protection of proposed critical
                habitat units for the Florida bonneted bat and which may meet the
                criteria for exclusion under section 4(b)(2) of the Act. Such programs
                and plans may include conservation easements, management agreements,
                tax incentive programs, or any other plan or program, particularly
                those programs that include management actions that benefit the
                species. When we evaluate a conservation or management plan during our
                consideration of the benefits of exclusion, depending on the type of
                conservation program, we assess a variety of factors, including, but
                not limited to: Whether the plan is finalized
                [[Page 35535]]
                and was subject to compliance with the National Environmental Policy
                Act (42 U.S.C. 4321 et seq.); the degree to which the plan or program
                provides for the conservation of the essential physical or biological
                features; whether there is a reasonable expectation that the
                conservation management strategies and actions contained in the plan
                will be implemented into the future; and whether the plan contains a
                monitoring program or adaptive management to ensure that the
                conservation measures are effective and can be adapted in the future in
                response to new information. We will evaluate conservation and
                management plans for any area identified based on information received
                during the public comment period, to determine whether the benefits of
                exclusion may outweigh the benefits of inclusion. Please see
                Information Requested, above, for instructions on how to submit
                comments.
                 There are several Executive Orders, Secretarial Orders, and
                policies that relate to working with Tribes. These guidance documents
                generally confirm our trust responsibilities to Tribes, recognize that
                Tribes have sovereign authority to control Tribal lands, emphasize the
                importance of developing partnerships with Tribal governments, and
                direct the Service to consult with Tribes on a government-to-government
                basis.
                 In accordance with the President's memorandum of April 29, 1994
                (Government-to-Government Relations with Native American Tribal
                Governments; 59 FR 22951), Executive Order 13175 (Consultation and
                Coordination With Indian Tribal Governments), and the Department of the
                Interior's manual at 512 DM 2, we readily acknowledge our
                responsibility to communicate meaningfully with recognized Federal
                Tribes on a government-to-government basis. In accordance with
                Secretarial Order 3206 of June 5, 1997 (American Indian Tribal Rights,
                Federal-Tribal Trust Responsibilities, and the Endangered Species Act),
                we readily acknowledge our responsibilities to work directly with
                Tribes in developing programs for healthy ecosystems, to acknowledge
                that Tribal lands are not subject to the same controls as Federal
                public lands, to remain sensitive to Indian culture, and to make
                information available to Tribes. When we undertake a discretionary
                exclusion analysis, we will always consider exclusions of Tribal lands
                under section 4(b)(2) of the Act prior to finalizing a designation of
                critical habitat, and will give great weight to Tribal concerns in
                analyzing the benefits of exclusion.
                 Tribal lands in Florida are included in this proposed designation
                of critical habitat. Using the criteria found in Criteria Used to
                Identify Critical Habitat, above, we have determined that there are
                lands belonging to both the Seminole Tribe of Florida and the
                Miccosukee Tribe of Indians of Florida that were occupied by the
                Florida bonneted bat at the time of listing that contain the features
                essential for the conservation of the species. We will seek government-
                to-government consultation with these Tribes throughout the public
                comment period and during development of the final designation of
                Florida bonneted bat critical habitat. We will consider these areas for
                exclusion from the final critical habitat designation to the extent
                consistent with the requirements of section 4(b)(2) of the Act. On
                September 20, 2013, in an effort to ensure early coordination, we
                notified Tribal partners of our intention to make a proposed critical
                habitat designation and requested information. More recently, we have
                again informed both Tribes of how we are evaluating section 4(b)(2) of
                the Act and of our interest in consulting with them on a government-to-
                government basis.
                 Some areas within the proposed designation are included in lands
                managed by the Seminole Tribe of Florida and Miccosukee Tribe of
                Indians of Florida (see Units 3 and 4 descriptions; see also
                Government-to-Government Relations with Tribes, below), constituting a
                total of 10,852 ha (26,817 ac) of Tribal land being proposed as
                critical habitat. In this proposed rule, we are seeking input from the
                public as to whether or not the Secretary should exclude these or other
                areas under management that benefit the Florida bonneted bat from the
                final critical habitat designation. For example, the Seminole Tribe has
                conservation measures in place that support the Florida bonneted bat
                and its habitat (e.g., limit impacts to potential roost trees during
                prescribed burns and home site/access road construction, maintain
                bonneted bat habitat through prescribed burning and construction of bat
                houses) (Seminole Tribe of Florida 2012, pp. 106-109). A total of
                10,852 ha (26,817 ac) of Tribal land could potentially be excluded.
                Please see Information Requested, above, for instructions on how to
                submit comments.
                 At this time, other than Tribal lands, we are not considering any
                specific areas for exclusion from the final designation under section
                4(b)(2) of the Act based on partnerships, management, or protection
                afforded by cooperative management efforts. We have also determined
                that there are no HCPs applicable to areas proposed for designation.
                During the development of a final designation, we will consider any
                information currently available or received during the public comment
                period regarding other relevant impacts of the proposed designation and
                will determine whether any specific areas should be excluded from the
                final critical habitat designation under authority of section 4(b)(2)
                and our implementing regulations at 50 CFR 424.19.
                Peer Review
                 In accordance with our July 1, 1994, peer review policy (59 FR
                34270; July 1, 1994), the Service's August 22, 2016, Director's Memo on
                the Peer Review Process, and the Office of Management and Budget's
                December 16, 2004, Final Information Quality Bulletin for Peer Review
                (revised June 2012), we will seek the expert opinions of at least three
                appropriate and independent specialists regarding this proposed rule.
                The purpose of peer review is to ensure that our critical habitat
                designation is based on scientifically sound data and analyses. We have
                invited these peer reviewers to comment during this public comment
                period.
                 We will consider all comments and information received during this
                comment period on this proposed rule during our preparation of a final
                determination. Accordingly, the final decision may differ from this
                proposal.
                Public Hearing
                 Section 4(b)(5) of the Act provides for a public hearing on this
                proposal, if requested. Requests must be received within 45 days after
                the date of publication of this proposed rule in the Federal Register
                (see DATES, above). Such requests must be sent to the address shown in
                FOR FURTHER INFORMATION CONTACT. We will schedule a public hearing on
                this proposal, if requested, and announce the date, time, and place of
                the hearing, as well as how to obtain reasonable accommodations, in the
                Federal Register and local newspapers at least 15 days before the
                hearing. For the immediate future, we will provide these public
                hearings using webinars that will be announced on the Service's
                website, in addition to the Federal Register. The use of these virtual
                public hearings is consistent with our regulation at 50 CFR
                424.16(c)(3).
                [[Page 35536]]
                Required Determinations
                Regulatory Planning and Review (Executive Orders 12866 and 13563)
                 Executive Order 12866 provides that the Office of Information and
                Regulatory Affairs (OIRA) will review all significant rules. The Office
                of Information and Regulatory Affairs has waived their review regarding
                their significance determination of this proposed rule.
                 Executive Order 13563 reaffirms the principles of E.O. 12866 while
                calling for improvements in the nation's regulatory system to promote
                predictability, to reduce uncertainty, and to use the best, most
                innovative, and least burdensome tools for achieving regulatory ends.
                The executive order directs agencies to consider regulatory approaches
                that reduce burdens and maintain flexibility and freedom of choice for
                the public where these approaches are relevant, feasible, and
                consistent with regulatory objectives. E.O. 13563 emphasizes further
                that regulations must be based on the best available science and that
                the rulemaking process must allow for public participation and an open
                exchange of ideas. We have developed this rule in a manner consistent
                with these requirements.
                Executive Order 13771
                 We do not believe this proposed rule is an E.O. 13771 (``Reducing
                Regulation and Controlling Regulatory Costs'') (82 FR 9339, February 3,
                2017) regulatory action because we believe this rule is not significant
                under E.O. 12866; however, the Office of Information and Regulatory
                Affairs has waived their review regarding their E.O. 12866 significance
                determination of this proposed rule.
                Regulatory Flexibility Act (5 U.S.C. 601 et seq.)
                 Under the Regulatory Flexibility Act (RFA), as amended by the Small
                Business Regulatory Enforcement Fairness Act of 1996 (SBREFA; 5 U.S.C.
                801 et seq.), whenever an agency is required to publish a notice of
                rulemaking for any proposed or final rule, it must prepare and make
                available for public comment a regulatory flexibility analysis that
                describes the effects of the rule on small entities (i.e., small
                businesses, small organizations, and small government jurisdictions).
                However, no regulatory flexibility analysis is required if the head of
                the agency certifies the rule will not have a significant economic
                impact on a substantial number of small entities. The SBREFA amended
                the RFA to require Federal agencies to provide a certification
                statement of the factual basis for certifying that the rule will not
                have a significant economic impact on a substantial number of small
                entities.
                 According to the Small Business Administration, small entities
                include small organizations such as independent nonprofit
                organizations; small governmental jurisdictions, including school
                boards and city and town governments that serve fewer than 50,000
                residents; and small businesses (13 CFR 121.201). Small businesses
                include manufacturing and mining concerns with fewer than 500
                employees, wholesale trade entities with fewer than 100 employees,
                retail and service businesses with less than $5 million in annual
                sales, general and heavy construction businesses with less than $27.5
                million in annual business, special trade contractors doing less than
                $11.5 million in annual business, and agricultural businesses with
                annual sales less than $750,000. To determine if potential economic
                impacts to these small entities are significant, we considered the
                types of activities that might trigger regulatory impacts under this
                designation as well as types of project modifications that may result.
                In general, the term ``significant economic impact'' is meant to apply
                to a typical small business firm's business operations.
                 Under the RFA, as amended, and as understood in the light of recent
                court decisions, Federal agencies are required to evaluate the
                potential incremental impacts of rulemaking only on those entities
                directly regulated by the rulemaking itself and, therefore, are not
                required to evaluate the potential impacts to indirectly regulated
                entities. The regulatory mechanism through which critical habitat
                protections are realized is section 7 of the Act, which requires
                Federal agencies, in consultation with the Service, to ensure that any
                action authorized, funded, or carried out by the Agency is not likely
                to destroy or adversely modify critical habitat. Therefore, under
                section 7, only Federal action agencies are directly subject to the
                specific regulatory requirement (avoiding destruction and adverse
                modification) imposed by critical habitat designation. Consequently, it
                is our position that only Federal action agencies would be directly
                regulated if we adopt the proposed critical habitat designation. There
                is no requirement under the RFA to evaluate the potential impacts to
                entities not directly regulated. Moreover, Federal agencies are not
                small entities. Therefore, because no small entities would be directly
                regulated by this rulemaking, the Service certifies that, if made final
                as proposed, the proposed critical habitat designation will not have a
                significant economic impact on a substantial number of small entities.
                 In summary, we have considered whether the proposed designation
                would result in a significant economic impact on a substantial number
                of small entities. For the above reasons and based on currently
                available information, we certify that, if made final, the proposed
                critical habitat designation will not have a significant economic
                impact on a substantial number of small business entities. Therefore,
                an initial regulatory flexibility analysis is not required.
                Executive Order 13771
                 This proposed rule is not an Executive Order (E.O.) 13771
                (``Reducing Regulation and Controlling Regulatory Costs'') (82 FR 9339,
                February 3, 2017) regulatory action because this rule is not
                significant under E.O. 12866.
                Energy Supply, Distribution, or Use--Executive Order 13211
                 Executive Order 13211 (Actions Concerning Regulations That
                Significantly Affect Energy Supply, Distribution, or Use) requires
                agencies to prepare Statements of Energy Effects when undertaking
                certain actions. In our economic analysis, we did not find that this
                proposed critical habitat designation would significantly affect energy
                supplies, distribution, or use. As most of the area included in the
                proposed critical habitat designation occurs on conservation lands
                (approximately 82 percent), the likelihood of energy development within
                critical habitat is low. Therefore, this action is not a significant
                energy action, and no Statement of Energy Effects is required.
                Unfunded Mandates Reform Act (2 U.S.C. 1501 et seq.)
                 In accordance with the Unfunded Mandates Reform Act, we make the
                following findings:
                 (1) This rule would not produce a Federal mandate. In general, a
                Federal mandate is a provision in legislation, statute, or regulation
                that would impose an enforceable duty upon State, local, or Tribal
                governments, or the private sector, and includes both ``Federal
                intergovernmental mandates'' and ``Federal private sector mandates.''
                These terms are defined in 2 U.S.C. 658(5)-(7). ``Federal
                intergovernmental mandate'' includes a regulation that ``would impose
                an enforceable duty upon State, local, or Tribal
                [[Page 35537]]
                governments'' with two exceptions. It excludes ``a condition of Federal
                assistance.'' It also excludes ``a duty arising from participation in a
                voluntary Federal program,'' unless the regulation ``relates to a then-
                existing Federal program under which $500,000,000 or more is provided
                annually to State, local, and Tribal governments under entitlement
                authority,'' if the provision would ``increase the stringency of
                conditions of assistance'' or ``place caps upon, or otherwise decrease,
                the Federal Government's responsibility to provide funding,'' and the
                State, local, or Tribal governments ``lack authority'' to adjust
                accordingly. At the time of enactment, these entitlement programs were:
                Medicaid; Aid to Families with Dependent Children work programs; Child
                Nutrition; Food Stamps; Social Services Block Grants; Vocational
                Rehabilitation State Grants; Foster Care, Adoption Assistance, and
                Independent Living; Family Support Welfare Services; and Child Support
                Enforcement. ``Federal private sector mandate'' includes a regulation
                that ``would impose an enforceable duty upon the private sector, except
                (i) a condition of Federal assistance or (ii) a duty arising from
                participation in a voluntary Federal program.''
                 The designation of critical habitat does not impose a legally
                binding duty on non-Federal Government entities or private parties.
                Under the Act, the only regulatory effect is that Federal agencies must
                ensure that their actions do not destroy or adversely modify critical
                habitat under section 7. While non-Federal entities that receive
                Federal funding, assistance, or permits, or that otherwise require
                approval or authorization from a Federal agency for an action, may be
                indirectly impacted by the designation of critical habitat, the legally
                binding duty to avoid destruction or adverse modification of critical
                habitat rests squarely on the Federal agency. Furthermore, to the
                extent that non-Federal entities are indirectly impacted because they
                receive Federal assistance or participate in a voluntary Federal aid
                program, the Unfunded Mandates Reform Act would not apply, nor would
                critical habitat shift the costs of the large entitlement programs
                listed above onto State governments.
                 (2) We do not believe that this rule would significantly or
                uniquely affect small governments because it will not produce a Federal
                mandate of $100 million or greater in any year, that is, it is not a
                ``significant regulatory action'' under the Unfunded Mandates Reform
                Act. The economic analysis concludes that incremental impacts may
                primarily occur due to administrative costs of section 7 consultations
                for land management or habitat restoration and transportation projects;
                however, these are not expected to significantly affect small
                governments. Incremental impacts stemming from various species
                conservation and development control activities are expected to be
                borne by the Federal Government, State of Florida, and Miami-Dade
                County, which are not considered small governments. Consequently, we do
                not believe that the critical habitat designation would significantly
                or uniquely affect small government entities. As such, a Small
                Government Agency Plan is not required.
                Takings--Executive Order 12630
                 In accordance with E.O. 12630 (Government Actions and Interference
                with Constitutionally Protected Private Property Rights), we have
                analyzed the potential takings implications of designating critical
                habitat for the Florida bonneted bat in a takings implications
                assessment. The Act does not authorize the Service to regulate private
                actions on private lands or confiscate private property as a result of
                critical habitat designation. Designation of critical habitat does not
                affect land ownership, or establish any closures, or restrictions on
                use of or access to the designated areas. Furthermore, the designation
                of critical habitat does not affect landowner actions that do not
                require Federal funding or permits, nor does it preclude development of
                habitat conservation programs or issuance of incidental take permits to
                permit actions that do require Federal funding or permits to go
                forward. However, Federal agencies are prohibited from carrying out,
                funding, or authorizing actions that would destroy or adversely modify
                critical habitat. A takings implications assessment has been completed
                and concludes that this designation of critical habitat for the Florida
                bonneted bat does not pose significant takings implications for lands
                within or affected by the designation.
                Federalism--Executive Order 13132
                 In accordance with E.O. 13132 (Federalism), this proposed rule does
                not have significant Federalism effects. A federalism summary impact
                statement is not required. In keeping with Department of the Interior
                and Department of Commerce policy, we request information from, and
                coordinated development of this proposed critical habitat designation
                with, appropriate State resource agencies in Florida. From a federalism
                perspective, the designation of critical habitat directly affects only
                the responsibilities of Federal agencies. The Act imposes no other
                duties with respect to critical habitat, either for States and local
                governments, or for anyone else. As a result, the rule does not have
                substantial direct effects either on the States, or on the relationship
                between the national government and the States, or on the distribution
                of powers and responsibilities among the various levels of government.
                The designation may have some benefit to these governments because the
                areas that contain the features essential to the conservation of the
                species are more clearly defined, and the physical and biological
                features of the habitat necessary to the conservation of the species
                are specifically identified. This information does not alter where and
                what federally sponsored activities may occur. However, it may assist
                these local governments in long-range planning (because these local
                governments no longer have to wait for case-by-case section 7
                consultations to occur).
                 Where State and local governments require approval or authorization
                from a Federal agency for actions that may affect critical habitat,
                consultation under section 7(a)(2) would be required. While non-Federal
                entities that receive Federal funding, assistance, or permits, or that
                otherwise require approval or authorization from a Federal agency for
                an action, may be indirectly impacted by the designation of critical
                habitat, the legally binding duty to avoid destruction or adverse
                modification of critical habitat rests squarely on the Federal agency.
                Civil Justice Reform--Executive Order 12988
                 In accordance with Executive Order 12988 (Civil Justice Reform),
                the Office of the Solicitor has determined that the rule does not
                unduly burden the judicial system and that it meets the requirements of
                sections 3(a) and 3(b)(2) of the Order. We have proposed designating
                critical habitat in accordance with the provisions of the Act. To
                assist the public in understanding the habitat needs of the species,
                the rule identifies the elements of PBFs essential to the conservation
                of the species. The designated areas of critical habitat are presented
                on maps, and the rule provides several options for the interested
                public to obtain more detailed location information, if desired.
                Paperwork Reduction Act of 1995 (44 U.S.C. 3501 et seq.)
                 This rule does not contain information collection requirements, and
                a submission to the Office of
                [[Page 35538]]
                Management and Budget (OMB) under the Paperwork Reduction Act of 1995
                (44 U.S.C. 3501 et seq.) is not required. We may not conduct or sponsor
                and you are not required to respond to a collection of information
                unless it displays a currently valid OMB control number.
                National Environmental Policy Act (42 U.S.C. 4321 et seq.)
                 It is our position that, outside the jurisdiction of the U.S. Court
                of Appeals for the Tenth Circuit, we do not need to prepare
                environmental analyses pursuant to the National Environmental Policy
                Act in connection with designating critical habitat under the Act. We
                published a notice outlining our reasons for this determination in the
                Federal Register on October 25, 1983 (48 FR 49244). This position was
                upheld by the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit (Douglas
                County v. Babbitt, 48 F.3d 1495 (9th Cir. 1995), cert. denied 516 U.S.
                1042 (1996)).]
                Government-to-Government Relationship With Tribes
                 In accordance with the President's memorandum of April 29, 1994
                (Government-to-Government Relations with Native American Tribal
                Governments; 59 FR 22951), Executive Order 13175 (Consultation and
                Coordination with Indian Tribal Governments), and the Department of the
                Interior's manual at 512 DM 2, we readily acknowledge our
                responsibility to communicate meaningfully with recognized Federal
                Tribes on a government-to-government basis. In accordance with
                Secretarial Order 3206 of June 5, 1997 (American Indian Tribal Rights,
                Federal-Tribal Trust Responsibilities, and the Endangered Species Act),
                we readily acknowledge our responsibilities to work directly with
                tribes in developing programs for healthy ecosystems, to acknowledge
                that tribal lands are not subject to the same controls as Federal
                public lands, to remain sensitive to Indian culture, and to make
                information available to tribes. Some areas within the proposed
                designation are included in lands managed by the Seminole Tribe of
                Florida and Miccosukee Tribe of Indians of Florida (see Units 3 and 4
                descriptions; see also Exclusions Based on Other Relevant Impacts,
                above), constituting a total of 10,852 ha (26,817 ac) of Tribal land
                being proposed as critical habitat. We will continue to work with
                tribal entities during the development of a final rule for the
                designation of critical habitat for the Florida bonneted bat.
                Clarity of the Rule
                 We are required by Executive Orders 12866 and 12988 and by the
                Presidential Memorandum of June 1, 1998, to write all rules in plain
                language. This means that each rule we publish must:
                 (1) Be logically organized;
                 (2) Use the active voice to address readers directly;
                 (3) Use clear language rather than jargon;
                 (4) Be divided into short sections and sentences; and
                 (5) Use lists and tables wherever possible.
                 If you feel that we have not met these requirements, send us
                comments by one of the methods listed in ADDRESSES. To better help us
                revise the rule, your comments should be as specific as possible. For
                example, you should tell us the numbers of the sections or paragraphs
                that are unclearly written, which sections or sentences are too long,
                the sections where you feel lists or tables would be useful, etc.
                References Cited
                 A complete list of references cited in this rulemaking is available
                on the internet at http://www.regulations.gov in Docket No. FWS-R4-ES-
                2019-0106 and upon request from the South Florida Ecological Services
                Office (see FOR FURTHER INFORMATION CONTACT).
                Authors
                 The primary authors of this proposed rulemaking are the staff
                members of the South Florida Ecological Services Office.
                List of Subjects in 50 CFR Part 17
                 Endangered and threatened species, Exports, Imports, Reporting and
                recordkeeping requirements, Transportation.
                Proposed Regulation Promulgation
                 Accordingly, we propose to amend part 17, subchapter B of chapter
                I, title 50 of the Code of Federal Regulations, as set forth below:
                PART 17--ENDANGERED AND THREATENED WILDLIFE AND PLANTS
                0
                1. The authority citation for part 17 continues to read as follows:
                 Authority: 16 U.S.C. 1361-1407; 1531-1544; and 4201-4245, unless
                otherwise noted.
                0
                2. In Sec. 17.11(h), revise the entry for ``Bat, Florida bonneted''
                under ``MAMMALS'' in the List of Endangered and Threatened Wildlife to
                read as follows:
                Sec. 17.11 Endangered and threatened wildlife.
                * * * * *
                 (h) * * *
                
                ----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
                 Listing citations and
                 Common name Scientific name Where listed Status applicable rules
                ----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
                 Mammals
                ----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
                
                 * * * * * * *
                Bat, Florida bonneted.......... Eumops floridanus. Wherever found.... E 78 FR 61003, 10/2/
                 2013; 50 CFR
                 17.95(a).\CH\
                
                 * * * * * * *
                ----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
                0
                3. In Sec. 17.95, amend paragraph (a) by adding an entry for ``Florida
                Bonneted Bat (Eumops floridanus)'' in the same alphabetical order that
                the species appears in the table at Sec. 17.11 (h), to read as
                follows:
                Sec. 17.95 Critical habitat--fish and wildlife.
                 (a) Mammals.
                Florida Bonneted Bat (Eumops floridanus)
                 (1) Critical habitat units are depicted for Charlotte, Collier,
                DeSoto, Glades, Hardee, Hendry, Lee, Miami-Dade, Monroe, and Sarasota
                Counties, Florida, on the maps in this entry.
                 (2) Within these areas, the physical or biological features
                essential to the conservation of Florida bonneted bat consist of one or
                more of the following components:
                [[Page 35539]]
                 (i) Representative forest types (all age classes) that support the
                Florida bonneted bat by providing roosting and foraging habitat within
                its core areas (i.e., Polk, Charlotte, Lee, Collier, Monroe, and Miami-
                Dade Counties), including:
                 (A) Pine flatwoods;
                 (B) Scrubby pine flatwoods;
                 (C) Pine rocklands;
                 (D) Royal palm hammocks;
                 (E) Mixed or hardwood hammocks;
                 (F) Cypress;
                 (G) Mixed or hardwood wetlands;
                 (H) Mangroves (mature and pristine);
                 (I) Cabbage palms; and
                 (J) Sand pine scrub.
                 (ii) Habitat that provides for roosting and rearing of offspring;
                such habitat provides structural features for rest, digestion of food,
                social interaction, mating, rearing of young, protection from sunlight
                and adverse weather conditions, and cover to reduce predation risks for
                adults and young, and includes forest and other areas with tall or
                mature trees and other natural areas with suitable structures, which
                are generally characterized by:
                 (A) Tall or mature live or dead trees, tree snags, and trees with
                cavities, hollows, crevices, or loose bark, including, but not limited
                to, trees greater than 10 meters (33 feet) in height, greater than 20
                centimeters (8 inches) in diameter at breast height, with cavities
                greater than 5 meters (16 feet) high off the ground;
                 (B) High incidence of tall or mature live trees with various
                deformities (e.g., large cavities, hollows, broken tops, loose bark,
                and other evidence of decay);
                 (C) Sufficient open space for Florida bonneted bats to fly; areas
                may include open or semi-open canopy, canopy gaps, and edges, or above
                the canopy, which provide relatively uncluttered conditions; and/or
                 (D) Rock crevices.
                 (iii) Habitat that provides for foraging, which may vary widely
                across the Florida bonneted bat's range, in accordance with ecological
                conditions, seasons, and disturbance regimes that influence vegetation
                structure and prey species distributions. Foraging habitat may be
                separate and relatively far distances from roosting habitat. Foraging
                habitat consists of:
                 (A) Sources for drinking water and prey, including open fresh water
                and permanent or seasonal freshwater wetlands, in natural or rural
                areas (non-urban areas);
                 (B) Wetland and upland forests, open freshwater wetlands, and
                wetland and upland shrub (which provide a prey base and suitable
                foraging conditions (i.e., open habitat structure));
                 (C) Natural or semi-natural habitat patches in urban or residential
                areas that contribute to prey base and provide suitable foraging
                conditions (i.e., open habitat structure); and/or
                 (D) The presence and abundance of the bat's prey (i.e., large,
                flying insects), in sufficient quantity, availability, and diversity
                necessary for reproduction, development, growth, and survival.
                 (iv) A dynamic disturbance regime (natural or artificial) (e.g.,
                fire, hurricanes) that maintains and regenerates forested habitat,
                including plant communities, open habitat structure, and temporary
                gaps, which is conducive to promoting a continual supply of roosting
                sites, prey items, and suitable foraging conditions.
                 (v) Large patches (more than 40,470 hectares (100,000 acres)) of
                forest and associated natural or semi-natural habitat types that
                represent functional ecosystems with a reduced influence from humans
                (i.e., areas that shield the bat from human disturbance, habitat loss
                and degradation).
                 (vi) Corridors, consisting of roosting and foraging habitat, that
                allow for population maintenance and expansion, dispersal, and
                connectivity among and between geographic areas for natural and
                adaptive movements, including those necessitated by climate change.
                 (vii) A subtropical climate that provides tolerable conditions for
                the species, such that normal behavior, successful reproduction, and
                rearing of offspring are possible.
                 (3) Critical habitat does not include human-made structures (such
                as buildings, aqueducts, runways, roads, and other paved areas) and the
                land on which they are located existing within the legal boundaries on
                the effective date of the final rule.
                 (4) Critical habitat map units. Data layers defining map units were
                created using ESRI ArcGIS mapping software along with various spatial
                data layers. ArcGIS was also used to calculate the size of habitat
                areas. The projection used in mapping and calculating distances and
                locations within the units was North American Albers Equal Area Conic,
                NAD 83. The maps in this entry, as modified by any accompanying
                regulatory text, establish the boundaries of the critical habitat
                designation. The coordinates or plot points or both on which each map
                is based are available to the public at the Service's internet site,
                http://www.fws.gov/verobeach/, at http://www.regulations.gov at Docket
                No. FWS-R4-ES-2019-0106, and at the field office responsible for this
                designation. You may obtain field office location information by
                contacting one of the Service regional offices, the addresses of which
                are listed at 50 CFR 2.2.
                 (5) Note: Index map follows:
                BILLING CODE 4333-15-P
                [[Page 35540]]
                [GRAPHIC] [TIFF OMITTED] TP10JN20.000
                BILLING CODE 4333-15-C
                 (6) Unit 1: Peace River and surrounding areas; Charlotte, DeSoto,
                Hardee, and Sarasota Counties, Florida.
                 (i) General description: Unit 1 consists of 19,550 ha (48,310 ac)
                of lands in Charlotte, DeSoto, Hardee, and Sarasota Counties, Florida.
                This unit is located along the Peace River and its tributaries (e.g.,
                Charlie Creek), south of CR-64, with the majority generally west of US-
                17. Land ownership within this unit consists of approximately 4,537 ha
                (11,212 ac) of State-owned land, 119 ha (295 ac) of County-owned land,
                13 ha (32 ac) of locally owned land, 14,087 ha (34,810 ac) of private
                and other lands, and 793 ha (1,960 ac) of land of unidentified
                ownership. The largest land holding within this unit is the RV Griffin
                Reserve. Other smaller conservation lands also occur within this unit.
                BILLING CODE 4333-15-P
                [[Page 35541]]
                [GRAPHIC] [TIFF OMITTED] TP10JN20.001
                BILLING CODE 4333-15-C
                 (7) Unit 2: Babcock-Webb Wildlife Management Area, Babcock Ranch,
                and surrounding areas; Charlotte, Lee, and Glades Counties, Florida.
                 (i) General description: Unit 2 consists of 97,505 hectares (ha)
                (240,941 acres (ac)) of lands in Charlotte, Lee, and Glades Counties,
                Florida. The majority of Unit 2 is located in Charlotte County, east of
                I-75; other portions are in northern Lee and western Glades Counties.
                Land ownership within this unit consists of approximately 1 ha (3 ac)
                of Federal land, 61,128 ha (151,050 ac) of State-owned land, 3,724 ha
                (9,203 ac) of County-owned land, 8 ha (21 ac) of locally owned land,
                32,001 ha (79,077 ac) of private and other lands, and 642 ha (1,587 ac)
                of land of unidentified ownership. The largest land holdings within
                this unit are Babcock-Webb Wildlife Management Area and Babcock Ranch
                Preserve; other smaller
                [[Page 35542]]
                conservation lands also occur within this unit.
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                 (8) Unit 3: Big Cypress and surrounding areas; Collier, Monroe, and
                Hendry Counties, Florida.
                 (i) General description: Unit 3 consists of 366,833 ha (906,462 ac)
                of lands in Collier, Monroe, and Hendry Counties, Florida. The majority
                of Unit 3 is located in Collier County, south of I-75; the remainder
                occurs in southern Hendry County and mainland portions of Monroe
                County. Land ownership within this unit consists of approximately
                250,733 ha (619,573 ac) of Federal land, 10,527 ha (26,012 ac) of
                Tribal land, 61,869 ha (152,882 ac) of State-owned land, 3,384 ha
                (8,362 ac) of County-owned land, 173 ha (427 ac) of locally owned land,
                38,227 ha (94,460 ac) of private and other lands, and 1,920 ha (4,745
                ac) of land of unidentified ownership. The largest land holdings within
                Unit 3 are Big Cypress National Preserve, Picayune Strand State Forest,
                Fakahatchee Strand Preserve State Park, Everglades National Park, and
                Florida Panther National Wildlife Refuge. Other smaller conservation
                lands also occur within this unit.
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                [GRAPHIC] [TIFF OMITTED] TP10JN20.003
                BILLING CODE 4333-15-C
                 (9) Unit 4: Miami-Dade Natural Areas; Miami-Dade County, Florida.
                 (i) General description: Unit 4 consists of 114,372 ha (282,620
                ac), most of which are conservation lands and occur west of the Florida
                Turnpike, in Miami-Dade County, Florida. Land ownership within this
                unit consists of approximately 71,385 ha (176,395 ac) of Federal land,
                326 ha (805 ac) of Tribal land, 26,159 ha (64,639 ac) of State-owned
                land, 4,210 ha (10,404 ac) of County-owned land, 114 ha (281 ac) of
                locally owned land, 11,496 ha (28,408 ac) of private and other lands,
                and 683 ha (1,688 ac) of land of unidentified ownership. The largest
                land holding within this unit is Everglades National Park; other
                smaller conservation lands also occur within this unit.
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                [[Page 35544]]
                [GRAPHIC] [TIFF OMITTED] TP10JN20.004
                BILLING CODE 4333-15-C
                * * * * *
                Aurelia Skipwith,
                Director, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.
                [FR Doc. 2020-10840 Filed 6-9-20; 8:45 am]
                BILLING CODE 4333-15-C