[Federal Register: January 13, 2003 (Volume 68, Number 8)]
[Page 1629-1630]
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 
Evaluating the Net Benefit of Hazardous Fuels Treatment Projects

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 evaluating 
the net benefit of projects that reduce hazardous fuels. The guidance 
recommends that managers evaluate the net benefits of such projects 
during the consultation process conducted under section 7 of the 
Endangered Species Act of 1973, as amended (Act). While reducing 
hazardous fuels may have short- or long-term adverse effects on some 
species, the long-term net benefit can be substantial and sustaining to 
the species. This guidance will help ensure consistency in the approach 
the Services use to analyze the risks and benefits of implementing 
projects to reduce hazardous fuels.

ADDRESSES: Electronic copies of this guidance may be obtained from the 
USFWS World Wide Web Consultation Home Page at: http://endangered.fws.gov/consultations/forestplan.html.
 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 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 

[[Page 1630]]

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. As part of 
this effort, agencies must consult with the Services, in accordance 
with section 7 of the Act and comply with other applicable requirements 
of various environmental laws and regulations.
    Under section 7(a)(2) of the Act, each Federal agency must, in 
consultation with the Services, ensure that any action it funds, 
authorizes, or carries out is not likely to jeopardize the continued 
existence of any endangered or threatened species or adversely modify 
designated critical habitat. Therefore, Federal land management 
agencies must complete section 7 consultation in accordance with 
procedures identified at 50 CFR part 402 before implementing any 
project to reduce hazardous fuels. 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.
    Preventative actions that will help ensure public safety are among 
the goals of the President's recently announced Healthy Forest 
Initiative, which will implement core components of the National Fire 
Plan. As part of the Healthy Forest Initiative, the Services have 
developed a guidance document to ensure consistency in the approach the 
Services use to analyze the risks and benefits of implementing actions 
to reduce hazardous fuels during the section 7 consultation process.
    Some projects may have short-term adverse effects on some 
endangered and threatened listed species; however, at the same time, 
these projects present opportunities for significant long-term benefits 
to those species and their habitats. The guidance document encourages 
the Services to evaluate and balance the long-term benefits of fuels 
reduction projects, including the benefits of restoring the natural 
fire regimes and native vegetation, as well as the long-term risks of 
catastrophic wildfire, against any short- or long-term adverse effects.
    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).
    The Services are publishing this notice in order to advise other 
agencies and the public of the availability of the guidance document 
and to encourage its use.

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

    Dated: December 20, 2002.
William T. Hogarth,
Assistant Administrator for Fisheries, National Marine Fisheries 
    Dated: December 27, 2002.
Steve Williams,
Director, Fish and Wildlife Service.
[FR Doc. 03-578 Filed 1-10-03; 8:45 am]