[Federal Register: July 26, 2004 (Volume 69, Number 142)]
[Page 44542-44543]
From the Federal Register Online via GPO Access [wais.access.gpo.gov]



Fish and Wildlife Service

Proposed Programmatic Statewide Red-Cockaded Woodpecker Safe 
Harbor Agreement, Louisiana

AGENCY: Fish and Wildlife Service, Interior.

ACTION: Notice of permit application.


SUMMARY: This notice advises the public that the Louisiana Department 
of Wildlife and Fisheries (LDWF or Applicant) has applied to the Fish 
and Wildlife Service (Service) for an enhancement of survival permit 
pursuant to section 10(a)(1)(A) of the Endangered Species Act of 1973, 
as amended (Act) (16 U.S.C. 1531 et seq.). The permit application 
includes a proposed Safe Harbor Agreement (Agreement) for the 
endangered red-cockaded woodpecker, (Picoides borealis) (RCW), for a 
period of 99 years. If approved, the Agreement would allow the 
Applicant to issue Certificates of Inclusion (CI) throughout the State 
of Louisiana to eligible non-Federal landowners that complete an 
approved Safe Harbor Management Agreement (SHMA).
    We announce the opening of a 30-day comment period and request 
comments from the public on the Applicant's permit application, the 
accompanying proposed Agreement, and the supporting Environmental 
Assessment. The Environmental Assessment identifies and describes 
several alternatives. All comments received, including names and 
addresses, will become part of the official administrative record and 
may be made available to the public, subject to the requirements of the 
Privacy Act and Freedom of Information Act. For further information and 
instructions on reviewing and commenting on this application, see the 
ADDRESSES section, below.

DATES: Written comments should be received on or before August 25, 

ADDRESSES: You may obtain a copy of the information available by 

[[Page 44543]]

the Service's Regional Safe Harbor Coordinator, U.S. Fish and Wildlife 
Service, 1875 Century Boulevard, Suite 200, Atlanta, Georgia 30345, or 
Field Supervisor, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, Ecological Services 
Field Office, 646 Cajundome Boulevard, Suite 400, Lafayette, Louisiana 
70506. Alternatively, you may set up an appointment to view these 
documents at either location during normal business hours. Written data 
or comments should be submitted to the Atlanta, Georgia, Regional 
Office. Requests for the documentation must be in writing to be 
processed, and comments must be in writing to be considered.

FOR FURTHER INFORMATION CONTACT: Mr. Richard Gooch, Regional Safe 
Harbor Program Coordinator at the Service's Southeast Regional Office 
(see ADDRESSES above), telephone (404) 679-7124; or Mr. Troy Mallach, 
Fish and Wildlife Biologist, Lafayette Ecological Services Field Office 
(see ADDRESSES above), telephone (337) 291-3123.

SUPPLEMENTARY INFORMATION: 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 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 and 17.32.
    The LDWF's proposed state-wide Agreement is designed to encourage 
voluntary RCW habitat restoration or enhancement activities by 
relieving a landowner who enters into a landowner-specific agreement 
(the SHMA) from any additional responsibility under the Act beyond that 
which exists at the time he or she enters into the program. The SHMA 
will identify any existing RCWs and any associated habitat (the 
baseline) and will describe the actions that the landowner commits to 
take (e.g., hardwood midstory removal, cavity provisioning, etc.) or 
allows to be taken to improve RCW habitat on the property, and the time 
period within which those actions are to be taken and maintained. A 
participating landowner must maintain the baseline on his/her property 
(i.e., any existing RCW groups and/or associated habitat), but may be 
allowed the opportunity to incidentally take RCWs at some point in the 
future if above baseline RCWs are attracted to that site by the 
proactive management measures undertaken by the landowner. It is 
important to note that the Agreement does not envision, nor will it 
authorize, incidental taking of any existing RCW group with one 
exception. This exception is incidental taking related to a baseline 
shift; in this circumstance the baseline will be maintained but redrawn 
or shifted on that landowner's property. Among the minimization 
measures proposed by the Applicant are no incidental take of RCWs 
during the breeding season, consolidation of small, isolated RCW 
populations at sites capable of supporting a viable RCW population, and 
measures to improve current and potential habitat for the species. 
Further details on the topics described above are found in the 
aforementioned documents available for review under this notice.
    The geographic scope of the Applicant's Agreement is the entire 
State of Louisiana, but the Agreement would only authorize the future 
incidental take of above-baseline RCW groups on lands for which a 
respective CI has been signed. Lands potentially eligible for inclusion 
include all privately owned lands, state lands, and public lands owned 
by cities, counties, and municipalities, with potentially suitable RCW 
habitat in Louisiana.
    We have evaluated several alternatives to the proposed action and 
these are described at length in the accompanying Environmental 
Assessment. The alternative of our paying landowners for desired 
management practices is not being pursued because we are presently 
unable to fund such a program. An alternative by which interested 
private or nonFederal property owners would prepare an individual 
permit application/Agreement with us also was evaluated. Under that 
alternative, we would process each permit application/Agreement 
individually. This would increase the effort, cost, and amount of time 
it would take to provide safe harbor assurances to participating 
landowners and then such benefits would be applied on a piece-meal, 
individual basis. We have determined the previously identified 
alternatives, which would result in delays and lack of a coordinated 
effort, would likely result in a continued decline of the RCWs on 
private lands due to habitat fragmentation, lack of beneficial habitat 
management, and the effects of demographic isolation. A no action 
alternative was also explored, but this alternative is not likely to 
increase the number of RCW groups or RCW habitat, nor would it 
alleviate landowner conflicts. Instead, the action proposed here, 
although it authorizes future incidental take, is expected to attract 
sufficient interest among Louisiana landowners to generate substantial 
net conservation benefits to the RCW on a landscape level. The 
Applicant's Agreement was developed in an adaptive management framework 
to allow changes in the program based on new scientific information 
including, but not limited to, biological needs and management actions 
proven to benefit the species or its habitat.
    We provide 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 proposed 
Agreement, associated documents, and comments submitted thereon to 
determine whether the requirements of section 10(a) of the Endangered 
Species Act and National Environmental Policy Act regulations have been 
met. If we determine that the requirements are met, we will issue an 
enhancement of survival permit under section 10(a)(1)(A) of the Act to 
the Applicant in accordance with the terms of the Agreement and 
specific terms and conditions of the authorizing permit. 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 

    Dated: June 22, 2004.
Sam D. Hamilton,
Regional Director.
[FR Doc. 04-16912 Filed 7-23-04; 8:45 am]