[Federal Register: May 30, 2000 (Volume 65, Number 104)]
[Page 34493-34494]
From the Federal Register Online via GPO Access [wais.access.gpo.gov]



Fish and Wildlife Service

Notice of Intent To Conduct Public Scoping and Prepare an 
Environmental Impact Statement

AGENCY: Fish and Wildlife Service, Interior.

ACTION: Notice of intent.


SUMMARY: In accordance with the National Environmental Policy Act of 
1969 (NEPA), this notice advises other agencies and the public that the 
Fish and Wildlife Service (Service) intends to prepare an Environmental 
Impact Statement (EIS) related to the proposed issuance of an 
Incidental Take Permit (Permit) to the Foster Creek Conservation 
District (District) in Douglas County, Washington for take of 
endangered and threatened species, pursuant to section 10(a)(1)(B) of 
the Endangered Species Act of 1973, as amended (Act). As required by 
the Act, the District is preparing a Habitat Conservation Plan (Plan). 
The Plan is being developed to address agricultural practices 
throughout Douglas County, and may include management activities on 
dryland crop farms, livestock ranches, and irrigated orchards. With 
issuance of the Permit, participating landowners would receive 
regulatory certainty with regard to the requirements of the Act by 
implementing the measures prescribed in the Plan.
    The Service is furnishing this notice in order to advise other 
agencies and the public of our intentions and to announce the 
initiation of a minimum 30-day public scoping period. During the 
scoping period, other agencies and the public are invited to provide 
written comments on the scope of issues to be included in the EIS, 
which is expected to be available for public review and comment during 
the second quarter of 2001. Interested parties are encouraged to attend 
the scoping workshops or to provide written comments on the scope of 
the issues and range of alternatives for the draft EIS.

DATES: Written comments regarding the scope of the issues and range of 
alternatives for the draft EIS should be received on or before July 14, 
2000. Scoping workshops will be held on June 29, 2000 (see ADDRESSES 
for times and location).

ADDRESSES: Comments and requests for additional information should be 
submitted to Chris Warren, Fish and Wildlife Service, 11103 East 
Montgomery Drive, Spokane, Washington, 99206, or call (509) 891-6839.
    Scoping workshops will be held at the North-central Washington, 
Fairground, 601 North Monroe Street, Waterville, Washington, 98858. The 
workshops will be held from 3 p.m. to 5 p.m. and from 6 p.m. to 8 p.m. 
on June 29, 2000.

SUPPLEMENTARY INFORMATION: Conservation districts are legal 
subdivisions of the Washington State government, with powers and duties 
set forth in accordance with the Revised Code of Washington (RCW 
89.08). Among other things, conservation districts are authorized to 
develop comprehensive long-range programs for the conservation of 
natural resources within their boundaries, to enter into agreements 
with other State and Federal agencies and the districts' landowners, 
and to administer the programs of other State and Federal agencies 
concerned with the conservation of natural resources. Based upon this 
authority, the Service anticipates the development of a programmatic 
Plan by the District. Upon completion and approval of detailed, site-
specific farm plans that implement the terms of the programmatic Plan, 
individual landowners will receive permit coverage under section 
10(a)(1)(B) of the Act through Certificates of Inclusion.
    Douglas County is located in central Washington and encompasses 
over one million acres of land. It is anticipated that the activities 
covered under the Permit will include operation and management of 
dryland crop farms, liverstock ranches (each comprising roughly 48 
percent of the country's total agricultural land base), and fruit 
orchards (comprising roughly 4 percent). Grazing activities that may be 
addressed include, among others, stocking types and rates, timing, use 
levels, and management of livestock facilities (fencing, holding areas, 
transportation, etc.). Farming activities that may be include are, 
among others, planting types and techniques, crop rotation, timing, 
weed and pest control, management of facilities, and irrigation 
activities. It is also anticipated that the measures of proposed Plan 
and Permit coverage will be coordinated with existing Federal and State 
programs for private landowners in Douglas County (Conservation Reserve 
Program, other Farm Bill programs, private lands initiatives, etc.). 
The District tentatively proposes that the Plan and Permit be in effect 
for 50 years.
    Agricultural activities on private lands and the management 
activities of the District, along with those of other State and Federal 
agencies in Douglas County, have the potential to impact species 
subject to protection under the Act, as well as other unlisted species 
of concern to the Service. Section 10 of the Act contains provisions 
for the issuance of Permits to non-Federal landowners for the take of 
endangered and threatened species, provided the take is incidental to 
otherwise lawful activities and will not appreciably reduce the 
likelihood of the survival and recovery of the species in the wild. To 
received section 10 coverage under the act, applicants must prepare and 
submit to the Service for approval a Plan containing a strategy for 
minimizing and mitigating to the maximum extent practicable all take 
associated with the proposed activities. Applicants must also 
demonstrate that adequate funding will be provided to ensure the Plan 
will be implemented and monitored throughout its proposed life span. 
The mandatory elements of Plan and the criteria for issuance of Permits 
are contained in the Code of Federal Regulations (50 CFR 17.22, 17.32, 
and 222.22).

[[Page 34494]]

    Section 9 of the Act and Federal regulations prohibit the 
``taking'' of any species listed as endangered or threatened. The term 
``take'' is defined under the Act to mean harass, harm, pursue, hunt, 
shoot, would, kill, trap, capture, or collect, or to attempt to engage 
in any such conduct. Harm is defined 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.
    The species currently listed under the Act that are being proposed 
for coverage under the Permit include the Columbia River Basin 
population of the bull trout (Salvelinus confluentus) and the 
coterminous United States population of the bald eagle (Haliaeetus 
leucocephalus), both currently listed as threatened. The District also 
plan to address a number of unlisted fish and wildlife species in the 
Plan, such as the western sage grouse (Centrocercus urophasianus 
phaios), Colombian sharp-tailed grouse (Tympanuchus phasianellus 
columbianus), and the pygmy rabbit (Brachylagus idahoensis), among 
other. Should any of the unlisted species addressed in the Plan be 
listed under the Act in the future, participating landowners would 
receive incidental take coverage for them under the specific provisions 
of the Permit. The District also plans to seek separate Permit coverage 
for several species listed under the Act that fall within the purview 
of the Secretary of Commerce, as administered by the National Marine 
Fisheries Service, including the upper Columbia River Basin populations 
of spring chinook salmon (Oncorhynchus tshawytscha) and steelhead ( O. 
mykiss), both listed as endangered, and the middle Columbia River 
population of steelhead, listed as threatened.
    Under NEPA, reasonable alternatives to a proposed project must be 
developed and considered in the Service's environmental review. At a 
minimum, the alternatives developed must include: (1) A No Action 
alternative, which describes current management and resource conditions 
and potential future impacts incurred under this scenario; and (2) the 
Proposed Action, with thorough descriptions of its management features 
and anticipated resource conservation benefits and potential impacts. 
For the present environmental review, the No Action alternative will 
reflect the baseline conditions in Douglas County under current 
agricultural management practices. The Proposed action alternative will 
be represented by the District's Plan and its associated management 
measures. Additional project alternatives may be developed based upon 
input received from this and future scoping notices during development 
of the EIS.
    Comments and suggestions are invited from all interested parties to 
ensure that the full range of issues related to these proposed actions 
are addressed and that all significant issues are identified. The 
Service requests that comments be as specific as possible. Comments are 
specifically requested to include information regarding: the direct, 
indirect, and cumulative impacts that implementation of the proposal 
could have on endangered and threatened species and their habitats; 
other possible alternatives; potential adaptive management and/or 
monitoring provisions; funding issues; baseline environmental 
conditions in Douglas County; other plans or projects that might be 
relevant to this project; and minimization and mitigation efforts. In 
addition to considering impacts on listed species and their habitats, 
the EIS must include information on impacts resulting from the 
alternatives on other components of the human environment. These other 
components include such things as air quality, water quality and 
quantity, geology and soils, cultural resources, other fish and 
wildlife species, social resources, and economic resources.
    The environmental review for this project will be conducted in 
accordance with the requirements of NEPA (42 U.S.C. 4321 et seq.), 
Federal regulations implementing NEPA (40 CFR 1500-1508), other 
appropriate Federal laws and regulations, and the policies and 
procedures of the Service for compliance with those regulations.

    Dated: May 22, 2000.
Carolyn A. Bohan,
Acting Regional Director, Region 1, Fish and Wildlife Service, 
Portland, Oregon.
[FR Doc. 00-13385 Filed 5-26-00; 8:45 am]