[Federal Register: July 25, 2005 (Volume 70, Number 141)]
[Page 42533-42535]
From the Federal Register Online via GPO Access [wais.access.gpo.gov]



Fish and Wildlife Service


National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration

[I.D. 060705C]

Notice of Intent to Conduct Public Scoping Meetings and to 
Prepare an Environmental Impact Statement Related to the Family Forest 
Habitat Conservation Plan

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

ACTION: Notice of intent to conduct scoping meetings.


SUMMARY: The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and National Marine 
Fisheries Service (Services) advise interested parties of their intent 
to conduct public scoping under the National Environmental Policy Act 
(NEPA) to gather information to prepare an Environmental Impact 
Statement (EIS) related to a permit application from Lewis County, 
Washington for the incidental take of listed species. The permit 
application would be associated with the Family Forest Habitat 
Conservation Plan in the Chehalis and Cowlitz River watersheds located 
in Lewis County, Washington.

DATES: The public scoping meeting will be held on July 28, 2005, from 5 
p.m. - 8 p.m.
    Written comments should be received on or before September 8, 2005.

ADDRESSES: The meeting will be held at the Forest Grange, 3397 Jackson 
Highway, Chehalis, WA 98532.
    All comments concerning the preparation of the EIS and the NEPA 
process should be addressed to: Mark Ostwald, FWS, 510 Desmond Drive 
S.E., Suite 102, Lacey, WA 98503, facsimile (360)753-9518 or Laura 
Hamilton, NMFS, 510 Desmond Drive S.E., Suite 103, Lacey, WA 98503-
1273, facsimile (360)753-9517. Comments may be submitted by e-mail to 
the following address: FamilyForest.nwr@noaa.gov. In the subject line 
of the e-mail, include the document identifier: The Family Forest HCP - 

FOR FURTHER INFORMATION CONTACT: Mark Ostwald, FWS, (360)753-9564, or 
Laura Hamilton, NMFS, (360)753-5820.


Reasonable Accommodation

    Persons needing reasonable accommodations in order to attend and 
participate in the public meeting should contact Mark Ostwald (see FOR 
FURTHER INFORMATION CONTACT). In order to allow sufficient time to 
process requests, please call no later than July 21, 2005. Information 
regarding the applicant's proposed action is available in alternative 
formats upon request.

Statutory Authority

    Section 9 of the Endangered Species Act (16 U.S.C. 1532 et seq.) 
and implementing regulations prohibit the taking of animal species 
listed as endangered or threatened. The term ``take'' is defined under 
the ESA (16 U.S.C. 1532(19)) as to mean harass, harm, pursue, hunt, 
shoot, wound, kill, trap, capture, or collect, or to attempt to engage 
in any such conduct. ``Harm'' is defined by the FWS to include 
significant habitat modification or degradation where it actually kills 
or injures wildlife by significantly impairing essential behavioral 
patterns, including breeding, feeding, and sheltering (50 CFR 17.3). 
NMFS' definition of ``harm'' includes significant habitat modification 
or degradation where it actually kills or injures fish or wildlife by 
significantly impairing essential behavioral patterns, including 
breeding, feeding, spawning, migrating, rearing, and sheltering (64 FR 
60727, November 8, 1999).
    Section 10 of the ESA specifies requirements for the issuance of 
incidental take permits (ITPs) to non-Federal landowners for the take 
of endangered and threatened species. Any proposed take must be 
incidental to otherwise lawful activities, not appreciably reduce the 
likelihood of the survival and recovery of the species in the wild and 
minimize and mitigate the impacts of such take to the maximum extent 
practicable. In addition, an applicant must prepare a habitat 
conservation plan describing the impact that will likely result from 
such taking, the strategy for minimizing and mitigating the incidental 
take, the funding available to implement such steps, alternatives to 
such taking, and the reason such alternatives are not being 
    NEPA (42 U.S.C. 4321 et seq.) requires that Federal agencies 
conduct an environmental analysis of their proposed actions to 
determine if the actions may significantly affect the human 
environment. Under NEPA, a reasonable range of alternatives to proposed 
projects is developed and considered in the Services' environmental 
review. Alternatives considered for analysis in an EIS may include: 
variations in the scope of covered activities; variations in the 
location, amount, and type of conservation; variations in permit 
duration; or, a combination of these elements. In addition, the EIS 
will identify potentially significant direct, indirect, and cumulative 
impacts on biological resources, land use, air quality, water quality, 
water resources, socioeconomics, and other environmental issues that 
could occur with the implementation of the applicant's proposed actions 
and alternatives. For all potentially significant impacts, the EIS will 
identify avoidance, minimization, and mitigation measures to reduce 
these impacts, where feasible, to a level below significance.

[[Page 42534]]


    The EIS will analyze the potential issuance of two ITPs, one by 
NMFS and one by the FWS. To obtain an ITP, the applicant must prepare a 
habitat conservation plan that meets the issuance criteria established 
by the ESA and Service regulations (50 CFR 17.22(b)(2) and 222.307). 
Should a permit or permits be issued, the permit(s) may include 
assurances under the Services' ``No Surprises'' regulations.
    On June 29, 2000, NMFS and the FWS published a notice in the 
Federal Register stating the Services' joint intent to prepare an EIS 
on this action (65 FR 40078). However, the Services are now providing 
new notice of public scoping because of changes in the applicant's 
proposed action and to the affected environment.
    Lewis County is seeking ITPs from the Services that would provide 
regulatory certainty for family forest landowners making long-term 
commitments to forest resource protection. Lewis County believes these 
assurances may encourage family forest landowners to remain in forest 
management instead of converting lands to non-forest uses. As currently 
proposed, incidental take permits would be issued to Lewis County. The 
county would in turn provide certificates of inclusion to landowners 
after verifying they meet eligibility criteria and agree to comply with 
the HCP. Eligible landowners would be those that hold lands below 
elevation of 1,250 feet within the Chehalis and Cowlitz River 
watersheds in Lewis County, and harvest less than two million board 
feet of timber per calendar year.
    As of 2004, approximately 133,000 acres were owned by small forest 
landowners who met these criteria in Lewis County. The permits, if 
issued would provide incidental take coverage for activities on a 
maximum of 200,000 acres in the County. A permit amendment would be 
required to exceed the acreage, which could be subject to additional 
NEPA review. The Washington Department of Natural Resources (DNR) would 
verify compliance with the HCP concurrent with harvest activities, and 
Lewis County and the Services would conduct additional compliance 
monitoring at other times. Annual Implementation reports would be 
provided by Lewis County to the Services.
    Forestry activities that Lewis County is proposing for ITP 
coverage, and for which minimization and mitigation measures are being 
developed, include the following:
     All activities involved in timber management and harvest 
including: mechanical site preparation, prescribed burning, 
reforestation, vegetation management (other than with herbicides), pre-
commercial thinning, commercial thinning, timber salvage, other 
commercial harvest (felling, bucking, limbing, yarding, skidding, 
processing, loading, and hauling) of timber, fire prevention, fire 
suppression (including mop-up activities), and non-chemical pest 
     Construction, reconstruction, improvement, maintenance, 
abandonment, closure, and use of logging roads, spurs, landings, and 
decking areas;
     Quarrying, processing, and transporting of stone, gravel, 
and/or dirt for use in roads;
     Administrative activities, such as land surveying, timber 
cruising, and other resource inventorying;
     All activities required by the HCP or ITP; and
     Entering into and administering access rights, utility 
rights-of-ways, and recreational and hunting leases.
    Species for which Lewis County seeks coverage include 33 species of 
fish and up to 44 species of wildlife. Seven of the species are 
currently listed as threatened under the ESA, including: Lower Columbia 
River Chinook salmon (Oncorhynchus tshawytscha), Columbia River chum 
salmon (O. keta), Lower Columbia River steelhead/rainbow trout (O. 
mykiss), bald eagle (Haliaeetus leucocephalus), marbled murrelet 
(Brachyramphus marmoratus), northern spotted owl (Strix occidentalis 
caurina), and gray wolf (Canis lupus). Lower Columbia River coho salmon 
(O. kisutch) are proposed for listing and yellow-billed cuckoo 
(Coccyzus americanus) is a candidate species. Thirteen species proposed 
for permit coverage are Federal species of concern.
    The draft HCP to be prepared by Lewis County in support of the ITP 
applications will describe the impacts of take on proposed covered 
species, and will propose a conservation strategy to minimize and 
mitigate those impacts on each covered species to the maximum extent 
practicable. This conservation strategy would follow the basic 
strategies employed in the current State Forest Practices Rules with 
modifications to address site-specific ecological conditions of the 
eligible lands. Streams would be protected with combinations of no-
harvest and partial harvest buffers; roads would be designed, 
constructed, and maintained to minimize erosion and mass wasting; 
specified numbers of snags, logs, and residual live trees would be 
retained in uplands; and the size of timber harvests would be 
constrained to minimize potential cumulative effects. Protection of 
steep and unstable slopes, road construction, and road maintenance 
would follow State Forest Practices Rules, including any changes made 
to those rules through the adaptive management process associated with 
the Forest Practices Habitat Conservation Plan. Harvest unit size would 
be restricted to a maximum of 60 acres.
    The draft HCP will identify HCP alternatives considered by Lewis 
County and will explain why those alternatives were not selected. The 
Services are responsible for determining whether the HCP satisfies ESA 
section 10 permit issuance criteria.
    Under NEPA, a reasonable range of alternatives to a proposed 
project must be developed and considered in the Services' environmental 
review. The Services have identified the following preliminary 
alternatives for public comment during the public scoping period:
    Alternative 1: No Action - Under the No Action Alternative, an ITP 
would not be issued by the Services and the HCP would not be approved. 
Family forest landowners in Lewis County wishing to continue practicing 
forestry would be required to comply with Washington State Forest 
Practices Rules (WAC 222) concerning the protection of listed fish and 
    Alternative 2: The Proposed Action - There would be full 
implementation of the HCP, which includes a set of site-specific 
riparian and upland habitat conservation measures that would be 
specific to eligible family forest parcels in Lewis County;
    Alternative 3: The proposed HCP would be modified by changing or 
adding measures to further reduce the amount and risk of incidental 
take. These measures could include different approaches to ESA 
compliance, conservation commitments, adaptive management, permit 
timeframes, covered lands, covered species, eligible parties, or 
covered activities; and
    Additional project alternatives may be developed based on input 
received from the public scoping process.

Request for Comments

    The primary purpose of the scoping process is for the public to 
assist the Services in developing the EIS by identifying important 
issues and alternatives related to the applicant's proposed action. A 
scoping workshop will allocate time for informal discussion and 
questions with presentations by the Services and Lewis County.

[[Page 42535]]

    Written comments from interested parties are welcome to ensure that 
the full range of issues related to the proposed ITP are identified. 
All comments and materials received, including names and addresses, 
will become part of the administrative record and may be released to 
the public.
    Comments and materials received will be available for public 
inspection, by appointment, during normal business hours at the offices 
listed in the ADDRESSES section of this notice.
    The Services request that comments be specific. In particular, we 
request information regarding: direct, indirect, and cumulative impacts 
that implementation of the proposed HCP or other alternatives could 
have on endangered and threatened and other covered species, and their 
communities and habitats; other possible alternatives that meet the 
purpose and need; potential adaptive management and/or monitoring 
provisions; funding issues; existing environmental conditions in the 
plan area; other plans or projects that might be relevant to this 
proposed project; permit duration; maximum acreage that should be 
covered; limited entry time-frame for issuing certificates of 
inclusion; specific species that should or should not be covered; 
specific landforms that should or should not be covered; and 
minimization and mitigation efforts. NMFS and FWS estimate that the 
draft EIS will be available for public review in the spring of 2006.
    The environmental review of this project will be conducted in 
accordance with the requirements of the NEPA of 1969 as amended (42 
U.S.C. 4321 et seq.), Council on the Environmental Quality Regulations 
(40 CFR parts 1500 - 1518), other applicable Federal laws and 
regulations, and applicable policies and procedures of the Services. 
This notice is being furnished in accordance with 40 CFR 1501.7 to 
obtain suggestions and information from other agencies and the public 
on the scope of issues and alternatives to be addressed in the EIS.

    Dated: July 1, 2005.
Chris McKay,
Acting Deputy Regional Director, Fish and Wildlife Service, Region 1, 
Portland, Oregon.

    Dated: July 20, 2005.
P. Michael Payne
Acting Chief, Endangered Species Division, Office of Protected 
Resources, National Marine Fisheries Service.
[FR Doc. 05-14621 Filed 7-22-05; 8:45 am]