[Federal Register: January 13, 2003 (Volume 68, Number 8)]
[Page 1628-1629]
From the Federal Register Online via GPO Access [wais.access.gpo.gov]



Fish and Wildlife Service


National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration

Endangered and Threatened Wildlife and Plants; Guidance on 
Streamlining Section 7 Consultation on Hazardous Fuels Treatment 

AGENCIES: Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS), Interior; National Marine 
Fisheries Service (NMFS), National Oceanic and Atmospheric 
Administration, Commerce.

ACTION: Notice of availability.


SUMMARY: The Fish and Wildlife Service and National Marine Fisheries 
Service (Services) announce the availability of guidance on alternative 
approaches for streamlining section 7 consultation on hazardous fuels 
treatment projects. This guidance presents options for land management 
agencies and the Services for streamlining consultation conducted under 
section 7 of the Endangered Species Act of 1973, as amended (ESA). The 
guidance encourages early coordination and cooperation at the project 
planning stage, ``batching'' of similar projects, and use of design 
criteria or screens to streamline the consultation process while 
minimizing the potential for adverse effects to listed species and 
their habitats at both the landscape and site-specific levels. All 
procedures identified in this document are consistent with the 
requirements of section 7(a)(2) of the ESA and its implementing 
regulations (50 CFR part 402).

ADDRESSES: Electronic copies of this guidance may be obtained from the 
USFWS World Wide Web consultation home page at http://endangered.fws.gov/consultations/streamlining.pdf.
 Written copies of 
this guidance may be obtained from the Chief of the Division of 
Consultation, Habitat Conservation Planning, Recovery, and State 
Grants, United States Fish and Wildlife Service, 4401

[[Page 1629]]

North Fairfax Drive, Room 420, Arlington, Virginia 22203, or the Chief 
of the Endangered Species Division, Office of Protected Resources, 
National Marine Fisheries Service, 1315 East-West Highway, Silver 
Spring, Maryland 20910.

Consultation and Habitat Conservation Planning (Telephone 703/358-2106, 
Facsimile 703/358-1735).



    In response to recent damaging wildland fires, the Departments of 
the Interior and Agriculture have developed the National Fire Plan, 
which, among other things, calls for a substantial increase in the 
number of forested acres treated annually to reduce hazardous fuels. 
With this effort comes an increased workload related to compliance with 
various environmental laws and regulations such as the Endangered 
Species Act of 1973, as amended (ESA).
    Under section 7(a)(2) of the ESA, each Federal agency must, in 
consultation with the Services, ensure that any action it funds, 
authorizes, or carries out will not jeopardize the continued existence 
of listed species or adversely modify designated critical habitat. Thus 
land management agencies must complete section 7 consultation in 
accordance with procedures identified at 50 CFR part 402 for each fuels 
treatment project they propose prior to implementation. It is essential 
that these consultations be carried out as quickly and efficiently as 
possible to promote the timely implementation of preventative actions 
that will help to ensure public safety.
    This is one of the goals of the President's recently announced 
Healthy Forest Initiative, which will implement core components of the 
National Fire Plan. As part of this initiative the Services have 
developed the subject guidance document to assist in streamlining the 
section 7 consultation process for hazardous fuels treatment projects. 
This guidance is founded on the principle that by engaging in early 
planning and coordination the Services and action agencies can identify 
and address potential conflicts between fuels treatment projects and 
listed species conservation during the project design phase while there 
is the maximum flexibility to modify projects. Incorporating listed 
species' needs into the project design process, typically in the form 
of the development of design criteria, is one of the most effective 
methods of streamlining the section 7 consultation process.
    The guidance provides options for both fire management agencies and 
the Services and is designed to contain sufficient flexibility to meet 
the individual needs of varied circumstances across the landscape. 
While the guidance presents no new or additional requirements, it takes 
several streamlining techniques that have been successfully used in 
different areas of the country and under different circumstances, such 
as the development of design criteria or ``screens,'' the batching of 
similar projects, and the use of programmatic consultations, and offers 
ways they can be used individually or in combination to effectively 
streamline the section 7 consultation process. All procedures 
identified in the guidance document are consistent with the 
requirements of section 7(a)(2) of the Act and its implementing 
regulations (50 CFR part 402).
    Finally, despite the best of intentions, at times the section 7 
consultation process has been unduly slowed by disputes among 
consulting agencies. In an effort to reduce the potential for such 
delays, the guidance provides a dispute resolution process. This 
process involves elevation procedures designed to provide timely 
resolution to such disputes.
    The Services are publishing this notice in order to advise other 
agencies and the public of the existence of the subject guidance and 
encourage its use.

    Authority: The authority for this action is the Endangered 
Species Act, as amended (16 U.S.C. 1531 et seq.).

    Dated: October 8, 2002.
William T. Hogarth,
Assistant Administrator for Fisheries, National Marine Fisheries 

    Dated: October 11, 2002.
Steve Williams,
Director, Fish and Wildlife Service.
[FR Doc. 03-577 Filed 1-10-03; 8:45 am]