[Federal Register: October 26, 1999 (Volume 64, Number 206)]
[Page 57630-57631]
From the Federal Register Online via GPO Access [wais.access.gpo.gov]



National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration


Fish and Wildlife Service
[I.D. 101599J]

Availability of an Environmental Impact Statement and Receipt of 
an Application for Incidental Take Permits for the Simpson Timber 
Company, Northwest Operations, Habitat Conservation Plan, Thurston, 
Mason, and Grays Harbor Counties, Washington

AGENCIES: National Marine Fisheries Service, National Oceanic and 
Atmospheric Administration, Commerce; Fish and Wildlife Service, 

ACTION: Notice of application and availability for public comment.


SUMMARY: This notice advises the public that Simpson Timber Company, 
Northwest Timber and Wood Products (STC), has submitted an application 
to the Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS) and the National Marine 
Fisheries Service (NMFS) (together, the Services) for incidental take 
permits (Permits) pursuant to section 10(a)(1)(B) of the Endangered 
Species Act of 1973, as amended (ESA). As required by section 
10(a)(2)(B) of the ESA, the applicant has also prepared a Habitat 
Conservation Plan (Plan) designed to minimize and mitigate any such 
take of endangered or threatened species. The Permit application is 
related to forest management and timber harvest on approximately 
261,575 acres of Simpson's fee-owned timberlands in Thurston, Mason, 
and Grays Harbor Counties, Washington. The proposed Permits would 
authorize the take of the following endangered or threatened species 
incidental to otherwise lawful management activities: marbled murrelet 
(Brachyramphus marmoratus marmoratus), bald eagle (Haliaeetus 
leucocephalus), Puget Sound chinook salmon (Oncorhynchus tshawytscha), 
and Hood Canal summer run chum salmon (Oncorhynchus keta). STC is also 
seeking coverage for 48 currently unlisted species (including 
anadromous and resident fish) under specific provisions of the Permits, 
should these species be listed in the future. One of these, the 
coastal-Puget Sound population of the bull trout (Salvelinus 
confluentus), is currently in the final stages of the listing process. 
A determination will soon be made as to whether the bull trout will be 
listed as threatened. The duration of the proposed Permits and Plan is 
50 years.
    The Permit application includes: (1) the proposed Plan; and, (2) a 
proposed Implementing Agreement. The Services also announce the 
availability of a draft Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) for the 
Permit application.
    This notice is provided pursuant to section 10(a) of the ESA, and 
National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) regulations. The Services are 
furnishing this notice in order to allow other agencies and the public 
an opportunity to review and comment on these documents. All comments 
received will become part of the public record and will be available 
for review pursuant to section 10(c) of the ESA.

DATES: Written comments on the Permit application, EIS, Plan, and 
Implementing Agreement must be received from interested parties no 
later than December 27, 1999.

ADDRESSES: Comments and requests for information should be directed to 
Linda Saunders, Project Biologist, FWS, 510 Desmond Drive, SE., Suite 
102, Lacey, Washington, 98503-1273, (telephone: 360/753-5826; 
facsimile: 360/534-9331), and Mike Parton, Project Biologist, NMFS, 510 
Desmond Drive, SE., Suite 103, Lacey, Washington, 98503-1273 
(telephone: 360/753-4650; facsimile: 360/753-9517). Comments and 
materials received will also be available for public inspection, by 
appointment, at the above offices during normal business hours by 
calling (360)534-9330.
    Requests for documents on CD ROM should be made by calling FWS at 
(360)534-9330. Hardbound copies are also available for viewing, or 
partial or complete duplication, at the following libraries: Olympia 
Timberland Library, Reference Desk, 313 8th Avenue SE, Olympia, WA, 
(360)352-0595; William G. Reed Library, Reference Desk, 710 West Alder 
Street, Shelton, WA, (360)426-1362; Hoodsport Timberland Library, 40 
North Schoolhouse Hill Road, Hoodsport, WA, (360)877-9339; Elma 
Timberland Library, Information Desk, 118 North 1st Street, Elma, WA, 
(360)482-3737; W.H. Abel Public Library, Information Desk, 125 Main 
Street South, Montesano, WA, (360)249-4211; and, Aberdeen Timberland 
Library, Reference Desk, 121 East Market Street, Aberdeen, WA, 
(360)533-2360. The documents are also available electronically on the 
World Wide Web at http://www.r1.fws.gov/.

FOR FURTHER INFORMATION CONTACT: Linda Saunders, FWS, 360/753-5826; or 
Mike Parton, NMFS, 360/753-4650.

SUPPLEMENTARY INFORMATION: Section 9 of the ESA and Federal regulations 
prohibit the taking of a species listed as endangered or threatened. 
The term take is defined under the ESA to mean harass, harm, pursue, 
hunt, shoot, wound, kill, trap, capture, or collect, or to attempt to 
engage in any such conduct. Harm has been defined by FWS to include 
``significant habitat modification or degradation where it actually 
kills or injures wildlife by significantly impairing essential 
behavioral patterns, including breeding, feeding, and sheltering.'' 
NMFS' proposed definition of harm includes ``significant habitat 
modification or degradation where it actually kills or injures fish or 
wildlife by significantly impairing essential behavioral patterns, 
including breeding, spawning, rearing, feeding, and sheltering.''
    The Services may issue permits, under limited circumstances, to 
take listed species incidental to, and not the purpose of, otherwise 
lawful activities. FWS regulations governing permits for endangered 
species are promulgated in 50 CFR 17.22; and, regulations governing 
permits for threatened species are promulgated in 50 CFR 17.32. NMFS 
regulations governing permits for threatened and endangered species are 
promulgated at 50 CFR 222.307.


    Simpson Timber Company owns and manages approximately 261,575 acres 
of commercial timberland in Thurston, Mason and Grays Harbor counties, 
Washington. These properties are located from just south of Highway 8, 
north into the southern foothills of the Olympic Mountains, and west 
across the Wynoochee River valley to the City of Aberdeen's Wishkah 
watershed. Management activities on the tree farm include forest 
management and timber harvest.
    Some forest management and timber harvest activities have the 
potential to impact species subject to protection under the ESA. 
Section 10 of the ESA contains provisions for the issuance of Permits 
to non-Federal land owners for the take of endangered and threatened 
species, provided the take is incidental to otherwise lawful 
activities, and will

[[Page 57631]]

not appreciably reduce the likelihood of the survival and recovery of 
the species in the wild. In addition, the applicant must prepare and 
submit to the Services for approval, a Plan containing a strategy for 
minimizing and mitigating all take associated with the proposed 
activities to the maximum extent practicable. The applicant must also 
ensure that adequate funding for the Plan will be provided.
    Simpson Timber Company has developed a Plan with technical 
assistance from the Services, to obtain Permits for their activities on 
the subject lands. Activities proposed for Permit coverage include the 
following: all aspects of mechanized timber harvest, log 
transportation, road construction, road maintenance and abandonment, 
site preparation, tree planting, fertilization, silvicultural thinning, 
experimental silviculture, controlled burns, wild fire suppression, 
stream restoration, and the management, harvest, and sale of minor 
forest products. The Permits and Plan would also cover certain 
monitoring activities and related scientific experiments in the Plan 
area. The duration of the proposed Permits and Plan is 50 years.
    The Services formally initiated an environmental review of the 
project through a Notice of Intent to prepare an EIS in the Federal 
Register on February 9, 1999 (64 FR 6325). This notice also announced a 
30-day public scoping period, during which other agencies, tribes, and 
the public were invited to provide comments and suggestions regarding 
issues and alternatives to be included in the EIS. Following this 
scoping period a draft EIS was prepared which considers the No Action 
alternative, the Proposed Action, and three additional action 
    Under the No Action Alternative, Permits would not be issued and 
Simpson would continue a forest management program which avoids take of 
federally listed species. Under the Proposed Action, the Services would 
issue Permits and Simpson would implement their proposed Plan on 
261,575 acres of Simpson's Washington timberlands. Under a Modified 
Northwest Forest Plan Alternative, the Services would issue Permits, 
and Simpson would implement a Plan with riparian conservation measures 
approximately mid-way between the Northwest Forest Plan (NFP) and the 
Proposed Action. Current (1999) Washington Forest Practices would be 
applied where NFP guidelines are not available.
    Alternatives considered during scoping but which were not analyzed 
in detail include an alternative based on the Washington State Forestry 
Module (new proposed revisions to the Washington State Forest Practices 
Act), and a NFP Alternative. The Forestry Module Alternative, would 
have involved issuing Permits for an undetermined number of species and 
developing and implementing a Plan based on the Forestry Module 
guidelines for riparian, wetlands, unstable slopes, and road 
management. This alternative was not analyzed because it would result 
in similar riparian conservation to the Proposed Action. The NFP 
Alternative would have involved issuing a Permit for all threatened and 
endangered species that occur on the property and developing a Plan 
with mitigation measures similar to those found in the NFP. This 
alternative was not analyzed because it would restrict harvestable 
acres to approximately 68 percent of current levels, thereby resulting 
in excessive direct and indirect costs to the Applicant.
    The No Action, Proposed Action, and Modified NFP alternatives are 
analyzed in detail in the draft EIS. The Forestry Module Alternative 
and NFP Alternative were dismissed from detailed analysis.
    This notice is provided pursuant to section 10(a) of the ESA, and 
NEPA regulations.

    Dated: October 18, 1999.
Wanda L. Cain,
Chief, Endangered Species Division, Office of Protected Resources, 
National Marine Fisheries Service.
    Dated: October 18, 1999.
Don Weathers,
Acting Regional Director, Fish and Wildlife Service, Region 1, 
Portland, Oregon.
[FR Doc. 99-27695 Filed 10-25-99; 8:45 am]