[Federal Register: August 23, 2006 (Volume 71, Number 163)]
[Page 49469-49470]
From the Federal Register Online via GPO Access [wais.access.gpo.gov]



Fish and Wildlife Service

Draft Candidate Conservation Agreement With Assurances and 
Application for an Enhancement of Survival Permit for the Lesser 
Prairie-Chicken in Texas

AGENCY: U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, Interior.

ACTION: Notice of availability; receipt of application; request for 


SUMMARY: The Texas Parks and Wildlife Department (TPWD) (Applicant) has 
applied to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (Service) for an 
enhancement of survival permit pursuant to Section 10(a)(1)(A) of the 
Endangered Species Act (Act) of 1973, as amended. The permit 
application includes a draft 20-year Candidate Conservation Agreement 
with Assurances (CCAA) between the Service and TPWD for the Lesser 
Prairie-Chicken in 50 Texas counties. We request public comment.

DATES: To ensure consideration, written comments must be received on or 
before October 23, 2006.

ADDRESSES: Persons wishing to review the application, draft CCAA, or 
other related documents may obtain copies by written or telephone 
request to the Field Supervisor, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, 711 
Stadium Drive, Suite 252, Arlington, Texas 76011, or U.S. Fish and 
Wildlife Service, Southwest Regional Office, P.O. Box 1306, Room 4012, 
Albuquerque, New Mexico 87103 (Attn: Luela Roberts, Endangered Species 
Permits). The application and related documents will be available for 
public inspection, by appointment only, during normal business hours (8 
a.m. to 4:30 p.m.) at the Service's Arlington Office. Comments 
concerning the application, draft CCAA, or other related documents 
should be submitted in writing to the Field Supervisor (address above). 
Please refer to permit number TE-132658-0 when submitting comments. All 
comments received, including names and addresses, will become a part of 
the official administrative record and may be made available to the 

Wildlife Service Arlington office, 711 Stadium Drive, Suite 252, 
Arlington, Texas 76011 (817/277-1100), facsimile 817/277-1129, or by e-
mail at Tom_Cloud@fws.gov; or Luela Roberts at the U.S. Fish and 
Wildlife Service Regional office, P.O. Box 1306, Room 4012, 
Albuquerque, New Mexico 87103 (505/248-6654), facsimile 505/248-6788, 
or by e-mail at Luela_Roberts@fws.gov.

SUPPLEMENTARY INFORMATION: With the assistance of the Service, TPWD 
proposes to encourage the implementation of conservation measures on 
private lands to increase lesser prairie-chicken (Tympanuchus 
pallidicinctus) (LPC) occupied habitat and improve LPC population 
performance. The proposed CCAA would be in effect for 20 years in the 
following Texas counties: Dallam, Sherman, Hansford, Ochiltree, 
Lipscomb, Hartley, Moore, Hutchinson, Roberts, Hemphill, Oldham, 
Potter, Carson, Gray, Wheeler, Deaf Smith, Randall, Armstrong, Donley, 
Collingsworth, Parmer, Castro, Swisher, Briscoe, Hall, Childress, 
Bailey, Lamb, Hale, Floyd, Motley, Cottle, Cochran, Hockley, Lubbock, 
Crosby, Dickens, King, Knox, Yoakum, Terry, Lynn, Garza, Kent, 
Stonewall, Gaines, Dawson, Borden, Scurry, and Andrews. These counties 
constitute the Agreement's Planning Area, with Covered Areas being 
private lands within this Planning Area that provide suitable habitat 
for LPC or have the potential to provide suitable LPC habitat with the 
implementation of conservation management practices. We invite the 
public to review and comment on the permit application and the 
associated draft CCAA.


    The LPC is a distinct species of North American prairie grouse that 
inhabits rangelands dominated primarily by shinnery oak (Quercus 
havardii)-bluestem and sand sagebrush (Artemesia filifolia)-bluestem 
vegetation types. From the early to mid 1940's to the early 1950's, it 
is estimated that the range of the LPC in Texas encompassed portions of 
34 counties. Researchers considered the occupied range at the mid 20th 
century to be a reduction from the historical range (ca. 1900). In 
1989, TPWD produced an occupied range map that indicated LPC inhabited 
portions of 12 counties. In 2005, TPWD reported that LPC were found in 
portions of a minimum of 16 counties. In 1995, the Service was 
petitioned to list the LPC under the Act. The Service ruled that 
listing of the LPC was warranted, but precluded because of limited 
funding and higher priority species litigations. The LPC was designated 
as a candidate for listing in 1997.
    The major factors affecting the status of the LPC are conversion, 
degradation, and fragmentation of habitat. The conversion of habitat 
from native sand sagebrush and shinnery oak rangeland to improved 
pastures and cropland has been documented as an important factor in the 
decline of the LPC. Although many acres of former cropland throughout 
its range have been enrolled in the U.S. Department of Agriculture's 
Conservation Reserve Program (CRP) in the northeastern and southwestern 
Texas panhandle, LPC populations have not exhibited a marked response 
to the available vegetation types and structure created by CRP. Many 
CRP acres have been planted using monocultures of introduced grasses, 
which do not meet food, brood-rearing, or thermal habitat requirements 
for the LPC. Mixtures of heavily, moderately, and lightly grazed, and 
ungrazed native rangelands are essential components of LPC habitat, and 
should occur in a mosaic pattern on a landscape scale. However, in most 
areas, an insufficient amount of lightly grazed or ungrazed habitat is 
available to support successful LPC nesting. Overutilization of 
rangeland by livestock, to a degree that leaves less than adequate 
residual cover remaining in the spring, is considered detrimental to 
LPC populations because grass height is reduced below that necessary 
for nesting cover, and desirable food plants are markedly reduced.
    Since the petition to list the LPC under the Act was filed in 1995, 
a number of management and conservation efforts have been implemented 
by State, Federal, and private entities throughout Texas. TPWD has 
worked to implement conservation measures through its Private Lands and 
Habitat Program (PLHP). The PLHP includes programs and tools such as 
the development of written Wildlife Management Plans (WMP), the 
Technical Guidance Program, Landowner Incentive Program, Wildlife 
Management Tax Valuation assistance, information on private land 
trusts, and the Lone Star Land Steward Award Program. The PLHP focuses 
on a diverse array of programmatic responsibilities for wildlife 
habitat management and development, technical assistance, incentive 
programs, and conservation of private lands. PLHP biologists and other 
TPWD personnel provide technical assistance to land managers and 
landowners upon written request for assistance to develop plans and 
recommendations for voluntary conservation, enhancement,

[[Page 49470]]

and/or development of wildlife habitat. In particular, at the request 
of landowners, TPWD prepares written WMPs that incorporate 
recommendations for specific areas and address the conservation goals 
and objectives of each landowner. In conjunction with the development 
of landowner-specific WMPs, TPWD proposes to issue Certificates of 
Inclusion (CI) that provide coverage to individual landowners under the 
terms of its section 10(a)(1)(A) permit, should one be issued in the 
future. Each CI will be issued with Service oversight, and will be 
subject to revocation if the terms of the WMP are not fulfilled. TPWD 
and the Service feel that this process may preclude or remove any need 
to list the lesser prairie-chicken, if it is assumed that conservation 
measures were also to be implemented on other necessary properties, by 
encouraging private landowners to enroll in the WMP program and 
undertake the conservation practices prescribed in the CCAA. The 
proposed CCAA represents a significant milestone in the cooperative 
conservation efforts for the LPC and is consistent with section 2(a)(5) 
of the Act, which encourages creative partnerships among public, 
private, and government entities to conserve imperiled species and 
their habitats. Consistent with the Service CCAA policy, the proposed 
CCAA is intended to facilitate conservation actions for the LPC that 
will remove or reduce the threats to the species. The CCAA is also 
intended to provide TPWD and those private landowners receiving CIs, 
under the auspices of TPWD's permit, regulatory certainty related to 
normal agricultural practices should the LPC become federally listed as 
threatened or endangered in the future.
    The conservation measures in the CCAA would be implemented by 
individual non-Federal landowners, under the auspices of a TPWD and 
Service-approved WMP. These measures will generally consist of 
prescribed grazing, prescribed burning, rangeland deferment, brush 
management, CRP and cropland management, range planting, other upland 
wildlife habitat management practices, and population management 
techniques. TPWD has committed to guide the implementation of these 
conservation measures and requests issuance of the permit in order to 
address the take prohibitions of Section 9 of the Act should the 
species become listed in the future.
    We provide this notice under section 10(c) of the Act (16 U.S.C. 
1531 et seq.) and its implementing regulations (50 CFR 17.22), and the 
National Environmental Policy Act (42 U.S.C 4371 et seq.) and its 
implementing regulations (40 CFR part 1506.6).

Larry G. Bell,
Acting Regional Director, Region 2, Albuquerque, New Mexico.
[FR Doc. E6-13961 Filed 8-22-06; 8:45 am]