[Federal Register: October 16, 2001 (Volume 66, Number 200)]
[Page 52638-52640]
From the Federal Register Online via GPO Access [wais.access.gpo.gov]



Fish and Wildlife Service

Receipt of Application To Amend West Fork Timber Company's 
Endangered Species Act Incidental Take Permit for Western Washington To 
Include Canada Lynx and Bull Trout

AGENCY: Fish and Wildlife Service, Interior.

ACTION: Notice.


SUMMARY: This notice advises the public, other agencies, and Tribes 
that the Fish and Wildlife Service (Service) has received a request to 
add Canada lynx (Lynx canadensis) and bull trout (Salvelinus 
confluentus) to the list of species covered by Endangered Species Act 
incidental take permit PRT-777837, issued to the West Fork Timber 
Company, LLC (formerly Murray Pacific Corporation). This request is 
provided for under the Implementation Agreement for the Habitat 
Conservation Plan (Plan) accompanying the incidental take permit, dated 
September 24, 1993, and the Amendment to the Implementation Agreement, 
dated June 26, 1995. This request applies to forest management 
activities on West Fork Timber Company lands located in the Mineral 
Block of eastern Lewis County, west of the Cascade Mountain Range in 
the State of Washington (covered lands). The purpose of this notice is 
to seek comments from the public, other agencies, and Tribes on the 
Service's proposed permit amendment. We specifically request that 
comments be focused on substantive information relevant to bull trout 
and Canada lynx that could affect the Service's decision to amend this 

DATES: Written comments must be received on or before November 15, 

ADDRESSES: Comments and requests for further information should be 
addressed to Ms. Andrea LaTier, Fish and Wildlife Biologist, U.S. Fish 
and Wildlife Service, 510 Desmond Drive, SE., Suite 102, Lacey, 
Washington, 98503, phone (360) 753-9593, fax (360) 753-9518.


Document Availability

    All documents cited in this notice and comments received will be 
available for public inspection by appointment during normal business 
hours (8 a.m. to 5 p.m., Monday through Friday) at the office listed 


    On September 24, 1993, the Service issued incidental take permit 
PRT-777837 (permit) to the West Fork Timber Company (West Fork), 
pursuant to section 10(a)(1)(B) of the Endangered Species Act (Act) of 
1973, as amended (16 U.S.C. 1532 et seq.). The Plan and an 
Environmental Assessment associated with the original permit decision 
analyzed the effects that implementing the Plan would have on listed 
and unlisted species. The original permit authorized incidental take of 
the threatened northern spotted owl (Strix occidentalis caurina), in 
the course of otherwise legal forest management activities within the 
range of the northern spotted owl that occurs on the covered lands. 
This permit was amended on June 26, 1995, to authorize incidental take 
of listed species, in addition to the owl, that may occur on West Fork 
lands covered under the permit, with an Amendment to the Plan and an 
associated Environmental Assessment, which analyzed the effects to 
habitats of listed and unlisted species expected to result from 
amending West Fork's permit. Species covered by this first amendment to 
the permit included the marbled murrelet (Brachyramphus marmoratus 
marmoratus), bald eagle (Haliaeetus leucocephalus), grizzly bear (Ursus 
arctos = U.a. horribilis), and gray wolf (Canis lupus).

[[Page 52639]]

    On March 24, 2000, the Service listed the Canada lynx as a 
threatened species throughout its range in the contiguous United States 
(65 FR 16051). The bull trout was listed as a threatened species 
throughout the coterminous United States on November 1, 1999 (64 FR 
58909). On September 4, 2001, West Fork requested that the Canada lynx 
and bull trout be added to their permit. The Service is proposing to 
respond to this request and determine if adding the Canada lynx and 
bull trout to the West Fork permit is appropriate.
    Pursuant to the Plan and Amended Plan (Plans), and the 
Implementation Agreement and Amended Implementation Agreement 
(Agreements), West Fork received assurances from the Service that 
additional species could be added to the permit upon their listing 
under the Act in accordance with the Plans and Agreements. The Amended 
Implementation Agreement states:

    The Incidental Take Permit for currently listed species 
addressed in the Amended Habitat Conservation Plan has been issued 
contemporaneously with the signing of this Amended Agreement. 
Thereafter, each species that may use the types of habitats which 
occur on the Permit Area and which is listed as threatened or 
endangered under the Endangered Species Act during the term of this 
Amended Agreement, shall be added to the Incidental Take Permit 
within 60 days of receipt by [the] Fish and Wildlife Service and 
National Marine Fisheries Services of a written request from Murray 
Pacific, unless within said 60-day period [the] Fish and Wildlife 
Service or National Marine Fisheries Service determines that adding 
such species to the Incidental Take Permit would appreciably reduce 
the likelihood of its survival and recovery in the wild because 
[the] Fish and Wildlife Service and National Marine Fisheries 
Service reasonably finds that relevant factors exist, including: (1) 
The size of the species' population or range is very small in 
relation to the Permit Area, (2) the percentage of the species' 
population or range adversely affected by the Amended Habitat 
Conservation Plan and Incidental Take Permit applicable to the 
Permit Area is very large in relation to the entire population or 
range of the species, (3) the ecological importance of the affected 
population or range is very significant, and (4) the adverse effects 
of the Amended Habitat Conservation Plan and Incidental Take Permit 
to the affected population or range would be very severe. If the 
relevant factors are found to exist, the responsible Agency in 
addition will determine whether a meaningful improvement in the 
likelihood of the species' survival in the wild can be achieved by 
additional mitigation in the reserve areas or other adjustments in 
the Amended Habitat Conservation Plan and Incidental Take Permit 
covering the Permit Area. Unless appropriated funds are not 
available, the responsible Agency shall provide the appropriate 
additional mitigation or other adjustments in a timely manner and 
amend the Incidental Take Permit to include the affected species. If 
appropriated funds are not available, the responsible Agency in a 
timely manner shall use all other available means, including non-
governmental sources of funds and other alternative methods of 
mitigation or adjustment, to achieve the appropriate additional 
mitigation and amend the Incidental Take Permit to cover the 
particular species.

    Therefore, according to the Agreements for the West Fork Plans, if 
any species that uses the habitats addressed in the Plans that was 
unlisted at the time of permit issuance subsequently becomes listed 
under the Act, West Fork may request a permit amendment to have the 
species added to their permit with respect to their covered lands. 
Under the terms of the Plans and Agreements, the Service would add the 
newly listed species to West Fork's permit without requiring additional 
mitigation unless the best scientific and commercial data available 
demonstrate that doing so would result in the appreciable reduction of 
the likelihood of the species' survival and recovery in the wild.
    To determine whether adding bull trout and Canada lynx to the 
permit would appreciably reduce the likelihood of their survival and 
recovery in the wild, the Service will follow the section 7 
consultation process under the Act. The Service will also determine 
whether this permit amendment meets each of the issuance criteria 
described in section 10(a)(2)(B) of the Act.
    At this time, the Service is relying on the existing Environmental 
Assessments and subsequent section 7 Biological Opinions, which we 
incorporate by reference, as the analyses and conclusions therein are 
still accurate. These analyses and conclusions, in addition to any 
comments received as a result of this notice, the results of the 
section 7 consultation process, and the determination of compliance 
with the issuance criteria described in section 10(A)(2)(B) will form 
the basis upon which the decision to amend permit PRT-777837 will be 
made. Since these analyses and conclusions were made, the Service has 
learned more about the specific habitat requirements of both bull trout 
and Canada lynx. However, this information does not alter or invalidate 
the original analyses and conclusions. Therefore, the Service requests 
that comments specifically address any additional information regarding 
bull trout and Canada lynx that would preclude amending this permit.
    In summary, Canada lynx are typically found in areas where its 
primary prey species, the snowshoe hare (Lepus americanus), occurs in 
relative abundance and areas that receive deep winter snows, both key 
elements to the survival of the species. Lynx occupy the boreal, sub-
boreal and western montane forests of North America and use a variety 
of forest types. They forage in early-successional forests and den in 
mature forests. Resident animals primarily occupy high elevation 
landscapes containing a mosaic of successional vegetation stages 
necessary to satisfy their diverse habitat requirements. Dispersing 
individuals will travel through a range of elevations depending on the 
availability of prey.
    The West Fork covered lands most likely to support the Canada lynx 
would be the higher elevation lands in proximity to Late Seral Reserves 
(LSRs) managed by the U.S. Forest Service that border West Fork's 
ownership. Within these LSRs the Service expects the amount of early 
seral forest to decrease while the amount of complex forest is expected 
to increase. Additional late seral forest is anticipated to develop on 
the West Fork covered lands due to conservation measures associated 
with the Reserve Areas set aside by West Fork for development of 
northern spotted owl habitat and functional riparian habitat.
    Bull trout occupy a variety of habitat types during their life 
cycle but typically are associated with pools and large woody debris. 
Young-of-the-year are primarily bottom dwellers in shallow, slow 
backwater areas associated with large woody debris. Older individuals 
move to deeper and faster water, but are typically still associated 
with obstructive debris. Adults show a strong preference for deep, cold 
pools and are seldom found in streams with temperatures exceeding 18 
degrees Celsius. At the present time, it is unlikely that bull trout 
inhabit any stream on the West Fork covered lands due to the presence 
of dams that prevent their migration into this area.
    Should bull trout gain future access to the West Fork covered 
lands, the protected riparian habitat areas defined in the Plans are 
expected to gradually improve habitat conditions for this species. 
Results of the watershed planning activities conducted by West Fork on 
the covered lands should promote the development of large woody debris, 
increase shading, and decrease sediment inputs, all expected to favor 
bull trout colonization of the area. The anticipated lower fine 
sediment proportions in the substrate during the spawning season may 
also encourage use of the covered lands by bull trout.

[[Page 52640]]

    This notice is provided pursuant to section 10(a) of the Endangered 
Species Act and the regulations of the National Environmental Policy 
Act of 1969, as amended (40 CFR 1506.6). All comments that we receive, 
including names and addresses, will become part of the official 
administrative record and may be made available to the public. We will 
evaluate West Fork's request for an amendment and comments submitted 
thereon, along with the documents associated with the permit, to 
determine whether the application meets the requirements of the 
National Environmental Policy Act regulations and section 10(a) of the 
Endangered Species Act. If we determine that those requirements are 
met, we will amend permit PRT-777837 for incidental take of Canada lynx 
and bull trout. We will make our final decision no sooner than 30 days 
from the date of this notice.

    Dated: October 1, 2001.
Rowan W. Gould,
Deputy Regional Director, Fish and Wildlife Service, Region 1, 
Portland, Oregon.
[FR Doc. 01-25952 Filed 10-15-01; 8:45 am]