[Federal Register: July 20, 2000 (Volume 65, Number 140)]
[Page 45099-45100]
From the Federal Register Online via GPO Access [wais.access.gpo.gov]



Fish and Wildlife Service

Availability of an Environmental Action Statement and Receipt of 
an Application for a Permit To Enhance the Survival of the Northern 
Idaho Ground Squirrel in Adams County, Idaho Under a Safe Harbor 

AGENCY: Fish and Wildlife Service, Interior.

ACTION: Notice of availability.


SUMMARY: Bob and Peggy Mack (Applicants) have applied to the Fish and 
Wildlife Service (Service) for an enhancement of a survival permit 
pursuant to section 10(a)(1)(A) of the Endangered Species Act of 1973, 
as amended. The permit application includes a proposed Safe Harbor 
Agreement (Agreement) between the Applicants and the Service. The 
Agreement and permit application are available for public comment.
    The Agreement allows for management and conservation of the 
threatened northern Idaho ground squirrel (Spermophilus brunneus 
brunneus) on approximately 14 acres of private land, owned by the 
Applicants, approximately 5.5 miles northwest of New Meadows, Idaho. 
Northern Idaho ground squirrels currently occupy less than 5 of the 14 
acres. The proposed duration of the Agreement is 10 years, and the 
proposed term of the enhancement of a survival permit is 20 years.
    Under the Agreement, a 5-acre area, which includes all the habitat 
currently occupied by northern Idaho ground squirrels on the 
Applicants' property, is identified as a protected area. This 5-acre 
protected area would have a baseline greater than zero (0), and no 
incidental take would be authorized under the permit within this area. 
The Agreement allows for a variety of conservation measures to be 
carried out by the Service within the 5-acre protected area to benefit 
the conservation of northern Idaho ground squirrels. The permit would 
authorize the Applicants to return the 9 acres outside of the 5-acre 
protected area to the existing baseline condition of zero (0) northern 
Idaho ground squirrels. We expect this Agreement to result in a net 
conservation benefit by enhancing northern Idaho ground squirrel 
habitat within the 5-acre protected area, and expanding the northern 
Idaho ground squirrel population to lands outside the protected area. 
Recovery of northern Idaho ground squirrels is expected to be enhanced 
under the Agreement by improving habitat, expanding the northern Idaho 
ground squirrel population at this site, and potentially providing a 
population with surplus individuals for transplanting to other sites in 
need of supplementation. Under the Agreement, the Applicants will 
receive funding under the Service's Endangered Species Act Private 
Landowner Incentive Program.
    The Service has made a preliminary determination that the proposed 
Agreement and permit application are eligible for categorical exclusion 
under the National Environmental Policy Act of 1969. We explain the 
basis for this determination in an Environmental Action Statement, 
which also is available for public review.
    We request comments from the public on the permit application, and 
Agreement. All comments we receive, including names and addresses, will 
become part of the administrative record and may be released to the 

DATES: Written comments should be received on or before August 21, 

ADDRESSES: Comments should be addressed to Dennis Mackey, Project 
Biologist, Fish and Wildlife Service, 1387 S. Vinnell Way, Room 368, 
Boise, Idaho 83709 (telephone: 208/378-5267; facsimile: 208/378-5262).

FOR FURTHER INFORMATION CONTACT: Dennis Mackey at the above address or 
telephone 208/378-5267.


Document Availability

    You may obtain copies of the documents for review by contacting the 
individual named above. You also may make an appointment to view the 
documents at the above address during normal business hours. The 
documents are also available electronically on the World Wide Web at 


    Under a Safe Harbor Agreement, participating property owners 
voluntarily undertake management activities on their property to 
enhance, restore, or maintain habitat benefitting species listed under 
the Endangered Species Act. Safe Harbor Agreements encourage private 
and other non-Federal property owners to implement conservation efforts 
for listed species by assuring property owners they will not be 
subjected to increased property use restrictions if their efforts 
attract listed species to their property or increase the numbers or 
distribution of listed species already on their property. Application 
requirements and issuance criteria for enhancement of survival permits 
through Safe Harbor Agreements are found in 50 CFR 17.22(c).
    We have worked with the Applicants to develop the proposed 
Agreement for the conservation of northern Idaho ground squirrels on 
their 14 acres of land in Adams County, Idaho. Less than 5 of the 14 
acres are currently occupied by northern Idaho ground squirrels. Under 
the proposed Agreement, the Applicants will: (1) Protect 5 acres of 
occupied, suitable northern Idaho ground squirrel habitat from land use 
activities that may result in ``take'' of ground squirrels; (2) allow 
Service personnel access to the property to conduct ground squirrel 
conservation activities such as habitat enhancement, artificial 
feeding, ground squirrel surveys, and translocation of excess ground 
squirrels should the current population expand beyond the 5-acre 
protected area; (3) if appropriate, in cooperation with the Service, 
develop signs to discourage shooting of ground squirrels; and (4) work 
cooperatively with the Service on other issues

[[Page 45100]]

necessary to further the purposes of the Agreement.
    Threats to the northern Idaho ground squirrel include: habitat loss 
due to seral forest encroachment into suitable meadow habitats; 
competition from Columbian ground squirrels (Spermophilus columbianus); 
land use changes; recreational shooting; and naturally occurring 
events. The Agreement provides a net conservation benefit to northern 
Idaho ground squirrels by providing measures for ground squirrel 
habitat protection and enhancement, managing competition from Columbian 
ground squirrels, and controlling recreational shooting. The biological 
goal of ground squirrel conservation measures in the Agreement is to 
expand the northern Idaho ground squirrel population at this site 
beyond the 5-acre protected area by reducing threats to the species. 
The Agreement is expected to contribute to recovery of northern Idaho 
ground squirrels by reducing threats and expanding the ground squirrel 
population at this site. Recovery of the species would be enhanced by 
increasing the viability of the population at this site and potentially 
allowing ground squirrels to be translocated to other sites in need of 
population supplementation.
    Consistent with the Service's Safe Harbor policy, under the 
Agreement, the Service would issue a permit to the Applicants 
authorizing incidental take of northern Idaho ground squirrels, as a 
result of activities on 9 acres of their property, outside the 5-acre 
protected area. These activities include construction and use of the 
Applicants' house, garage, and other associated out-buildings proposed 
for development on the property; installation of a well, underground 
power and telephone lines, a septic system/drainfield, and other 
required utilities; and operation of all terrain vehicles. We expect 
that the maximum level of incidental take authorized under the proposed 
Agreement will never be realized. The level of incidental take would be 
dependent on if, and how rapidly, northern Idaho ground squirrels 
expand beyond the 5-acre protected area.
    We are providing this notice pursuant to section 10(c) of the 
Endangered Species Act and pursuant to implementing regulations for the 
National Environmental Policy Act (40 CFR 1506.6). We will evaluate the 
permit application, associated documents, and comments submitted 
thereon to determine whether the permit application meets the 
requirements of section 10(a) of the Endangered Species Act and 
National Environmental Policy Act regulations. If we determine that the 
requirements are met, we will sign the proposed Agreement and issue an 
enhancement of survival permit under section 10(a)(1)(A) of the 
Endangered Species Act to the Applicants for take of northern Idaho 
ground squirrels incidental to otherwise lawful activities in 
accordance with the terms of the Agreement. We will not make our final 
decision until after the end of the 30-day comment period and will 
fully consider all comments received during the comment period.

    Dated: July 3, 2000.
William F. Shake,
Acting Deputy Regional Director, Fish and Wildlife Service, Portland, 
[FR Doc. 00-18182 Filed 7-19-00; 8:45 am]