[Federal Register: March 5, 1999 (Volume 64, Number 43)]
[Page 10717-10718]
From the Federal Register Online via GPO Access [wais.access.gpo.gov]



Fish and Wildlife Service

Availability of an Environmental Assessment on the Proposed 
Issuance of an Incidental Take Permit for Boise Cascade Timber Company, 
Clatsop County, Oregon

AGENCY: Fish and Wildlife Service, DOI.

ACTION: Notice of availability, Request for comments, and reopening of 
comment period.


SUMMARY: This notice advises the public that the Fish and Wildlife 
Service (Service) has prepared a draft Environmental Assessment on the 
proposed issuance of an incidental take permit to the Boise Cascade 
Corporation (Boise Cascade) pursuant to section 10(a)(1)(B) of the 
Endangered Species Act of 1973, as amended (Act). The proposed permit 
would authorize the incidental take, resulting from habitat 
modification, of the northern spotted owl (Strix occidentalis caurina), 
which is listed under the Act as a threatened species. The Service 
announced the receipt of Boise Cascade's incidental take permit 
application and the availability of the Boise Cascade Walker Creek Unit 
Habitat Conservation Plan (Plan) and draft Implementation Agreement, 
which accompany the incidental take permit application, for public 
comment on December 23, 1998 (63 FR 71148). Because the draft 
Environmental Assessment provides additional information on the effects 
of the proposed permit issuance, the Service will accept additional 
comments on the permit application, Plan, and draft Implementation 
Agreement during the comment period for the draft Environmental 

DATES: Written comments on the draft Environmental Assessment, permit 
application, Plan, and draft Implementation Agreement should be 
received on or before April 5, 1999.

ADDRESSES: Individuals wishing copies of the draft Environmental 
Assessment, permit application, full text of the Plan, or the draft 
Implementation Agreement should immediately contact the office and 
personnel listed below. These documents also will be available for 
public inspection, by appointment, during normal business hours at the 
address below. Comments regarding the draft Environmental Assessment, 
permit application, draft Implementation Agreement or the Plan should 
be addressed to State Supervisor, Fish and Wildlife Service, Oregon 
State Office, 2600 S.E. 98th Avenue, Suite 100, Portland, Oregon 97266. 
Please refer to permit number TE005227-0 when submitting comments.

FOR FURTHER INFORMATION CONTACT: Mr. Rich Szlemp, Fish and Wildlife 
Service, Oregon State Office, telephone (503) 231-6179.

SUPPLEMENTARY INFORMATION: Boise Cascade is proposing to harvest 
approximately 50 acres of mature and old growth forest from a 65-acre 
parcel of land. The surrounding ownership consists of Oregon Department 
of Forestry land and lands owned by the Agency Creek Management 
Company. The Boise Cascade property contains two nest trees that were 
occupied by a pair of northern spotted owls between 1990 and 1996. 
Other listed species may also be affected by the proposed Plan. Coho 
salmon (Oncorhynchus kisutch) are found in Walker Creek in the Plan 
area. No surveys have been conducted for marbled murrelets 
(Brachyramphus marmoratus) or bald eagles (Haliaeeus leucocephalus), 
but the Plan area does contain potentially suitable nesting platforms 
for marbled murrelets and contains suitable bald eagle habitat. The 
Plan area contains some of the best northern spotted owl nesting 
habitat in the northern portion of the Oregon Coast Range. Most of the 
surrounding land has been logged or contains younger stands of timber 
that do not provide as high quality of owl nesting habitat as the Plan 

Alternatives Analyzed in the Draft Environmental Assessment

Alternative 1. No Action

    Under this alternative the Service would not issue a permit or the 
applicant would decide to not harvest the unit. For this analysis, it 
is assumed that this alternative would maintain the existing old growth 
forest within the unit.

Alternative 2. The Incidental Take Permit Application and Plan 
Submitted by Boise Cascade

    This alternative would provide for the maximum timber harvest 
allowable under the Oregon Forest Practices Act. Boise Cascade would 
harvest about 50 acres of a 70-acre spotted owl core area originally 
designated by the Oregon Department of Forestry. Boise Cascade removed 
6 acres of forest associated with the construction of a logging road in 
1989. The remaining 14 acres of the core is on adjacent state forest 
lands or private lands. Logging of the unit was prohibited by the State 
of Oregon until 1997 because the unit was within the core area of an 
active spotted owl site. Due to the lack of use of this site as an 
activity center for spotted owls in 1997, the Oregon Department of 
Forestry formally considered this site abandoned. However, the 50 acres 
are all considered suitable spotted owl habitat and include two trees 
that were known to be used by spotted owls as nest trees. A pair of 
spotted owls were active in the vicinity of this core area between 1990 
and 1996, and were known to have nested in 1990, 1992 and

[[Page 10718]]

1994. A juvenile spotted owl has been detected in various locations in 
the general vicinity of the unit over the past year.
    Boise Cascade proposes to: conduct harvest activities outside of 
the spotted owl nesting season (March 1-September 15); use existing 
roads that may need to be graded or otherwise refurbished for hauling 
use; use a tractor to remove logs in areas of flat terrain; use a 
cable/skyline to yard trees on the majority of the area which contains 
slopes of greater than 30 percent; and, replant harvested areas with 
Douglas-fir, sitka spruce, western red cedar, and/or western hemlock 
within 12 months of harvest. As required by the Oregon Forest Practices 
Act, Boise Cascade would leave, on average per acre harvested, at 
    <bullet> Two snags or two green trees at least 30 feet in height 
and 11 inches diameter at breast height (dbh) or larger, at least 50 
percent of which are conifers; and
    <bullet> Two downed logs or downed trees, at least 50 percent of 
which are conifers, that each comprise at least 10 cubic-feet gross 
volume and are no less than 6 feet long. One downed conifer or suitable 
hardwood log of at least 20 cubic feet gross volume and no less than 6 
feet long may count as 2 logs.
    In addition, Boise Cascade has stated in its written operations 
harvesting plan (97-11514) dated October 22, 1997, and submitted to the 
Oregon Department of Forestry that it would log the unit in accordance 
with the following conditions:
    <bullet> No conifer would be harvested within 100 feet of Walker 
Creek (using the high water mark as a boundary). No hardwood would be 
harvested within 50 feet of Walker Creek. All ``in-unit'' leave trees 
would be placed in, or adjacent to, the riparian management area. 
Conifer leave trees would be placed further than 100-feet from Walker 
Creek and hardwood leave trees would be placed further than 50-feet 
from Walker Creek. The ``in-unit'' leave trees would be a minimum of 75 
percent conifer. All other trees would be harvested;
    <bullet> Any tree that cannot be felled and kept further than 50 
feet from Walker Creek would be left standing. Any portion of a felled 
tree inadvertently falling within 50 feet of Walker Creek would be 
    <bullet> No downed wood or snags (except those required to be cut 
for safety) would be cut within the Walker Creek riparian management 
area. No downed wood or snags would be cut within 20 feet of a small 
tributary that enters Walker Creek in the northeast corner of the unit; 
    <bullet> The unit would be cable/cat yarded. Logging skylines may 
hang across the riparian management area. All yarding road changes 
would be made either by clearing above the riparian management area or 
by pulling back and restringing each road. Only safety trees would be 
cut in this process.
    This alternative would eliminate spotted owl habitat for an unknown 
and indefinite period of time. This alternative would likely result in 
incidental take in the form of harm by impairing essential breeding, 
feeding, and sheltering behaviors of spotted owls.

Alternative 3. Large Tree, Snag, and Downed Wood Retention Alternative

    This alternative is similar to the Boise Cascade Plan, but would 
include the following prescriptions:
    <bullet> Two of the largest diameter green trees per acre harvested 
would be retained, including the two known spotted owl nest trees. Half 
of these trees would be a minimum of 26 inches dbh, and the remaining 
half would be a minimum of 34 inches dbh. Snags could be substituted 
for green trees, so long as the total number would not exceed more than 
20 percent of the leave trees, and the snags have a trunk at least 30 
feet tall. Trees retained within the designated 100-foot riparian 
management area under the Oregon Forest Practices Act could not be 
double-counted for the leave trees;
    <bullet> The retained trees would be clumped and randomly 
distributed throughout the harvested acreage, and not all clumped 
within or immediately adjacent to the riparian management area. The 
clumps would be positioned and composed of enough trees, including sub-
dominant trees if necessary, to withstand windthrow in such a manner 
that the target of 100 leave trees would be maintained outside of the 
riparian management area;
    <bullet> All existing downed logs would be retained; and
    <bullet> The retained trees would not be harvested for a period of 
80 years.
    This alternative would result in a likelihood of incidental take of 
spotted owls associated with harm through habitat loss, but would 
provide dispersal quality habitat in about 40 years.

Alternative 4. Dispersal Habitat Alternative

    This alternative would allow for timber harvest in accordance with 
the following prescriptions:
    <bullet> No more than 40 percent of the standing tree basal area 
would be removed, and trees that would be at least 11 inches dbh and 
have an average 40 percent canopy closure immediately after harvest 
would be retained;
    <bullet> At least one of the two known spotted owl nest trees would 
be retained;
    <bullet> No downed logs would be removed; and
    <bullet> Further logging on the unit would be deferred for 40 
    This alternative would result in a likelihood of incidental take of 
spotted owls by harm through habitat loss within the area harvested, 
but would maintain dispersal quality habitat and provide spotted owl 
foraging opportunities.

Alternative 5. Dispersal and Remnant Nesting Habitat Alternative

    In addition to the prescriptions identified in alternative 4, this 
alternative would add a 500-foot, no-cut protection zone, within the 
bounds of the property, centered around one of the two known owl nest 
    This alternative would result in a likelihood of incidental take of 
spotted owls by harm through habitat loss within the area harvested, 
but would maintain dispersal and foraging quality habitat, and provide 
a remnant piece of nesting quality habitat.
    All interested agencies, organizations, and individuals are urged 
to provide comments on the draft Environmental Assessment, permit 
application, Plan, and draft Implementation Agreement. All comments 
received by the closing date will be considered by the Service as it 
completes its National Environmental Policy Act compliance and makes 
its decision regarding permit issuance or denial.

    Dated: February 26, 1999.
Cynthia U. Barry,
Acting Regional Director, Region 1, Portland, Oregon.
[FR Doc. 99-5456 Filed 3-4-99; 8:45 am]