[Federal Register: April 16, 2010 (Volume 75, Number 73)]
[Page 19994-19996]
From the Federal Register Online via GPO Access [wais.access.gpo.gov]



Fish and Wildlife Service

[FWS-R8-ES-2010-N046; 80221-1112-0000-F2]

Green Diamond Resource Company, California Timberlands Division, 
Forest Management Habitat Conservation Plan and Incidental Take Permit, 
Del Norte and Humboldt Counties, California

AGENCY: Fish and Wildlife Service, Interior.

ACTION: Notice of intent to conduct public scoping and prepare an 
environmental impact statement.


SUMMARY: We, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS), intend to 
prepare an Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) under the National 
Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) regarding an expected application from 
the Green Diamond Resource Company, California Timberlands Division 
(Green Diamond), for an incidental take permit (ITP, or permit) 
authorizing incidental take of federally threatened wildlife species 
under the Endangered Species Act of 1973, as amended (ESA). Green 
Diamond is preparing a Habitat Conservation Plan (HCP) and application 
for an ITP related to forest management and timber operations on its 
lands in Del Norte and Humboldt Counties, California. The HCP and ITP 
will cover the northern spotted owl (Strix occidentalis caurina) (NSO 
or spotted owl) and may also cover the Pacific fisher (Martes pennanti) 
(fisher), a currently unlisted species which has the potential to 
become listed during the term of the HCP. We are furnishing this notice 
to announce the initiation of a public scoping period during which we 
invite other agencies, Tribes, and the public to submit written 
comments providing suggestions and information on the scope of issues 
and alternatives to be addressed in the EIS.

DATES: Please send written comments on or before May 17, 2010.

ADDRESSES: Please send written comments to Mr. Randy Brown, Acting 
Field Supervisor, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, Arcata Fish and 
Wildlife Office, 1655 Heindon Road, Arcata, CA 95521. You may also 
submit comments by e-mail to fw8_greendiamondeis@fws.gov or by fax to 
(707) 822-8411. Comments we receive will be available for public 
inspection, by appointment, during normal business hours (Monday 
through Friday, 8 a.m. to 4:30 p.m.) at the above address.

FOR FURTHER INFORMATION CONTACT: Mr. Ray Bosch, Fish and Wildlife 
Biologist, at the Arcata Fish and Wildlife Office address above; by 
telephone at (707) 822-7201 or fax at (707) 822-8411; or by e-mail at 


Statutory Authority

    In accordance with section 10(a)(2)(A) of the Endangered Species 
Act of 1973, as amended (ESA; 16 U.S.C. 1531 et seq.), Green Diamond is 
preparing a HCP in support of an application for a permit from the 
USFWS to incidentally take the northern spotted owl and, potentially, 
the Pacific fisher. Section 9 of the ESA (16 U.S.C. 1538) and the 
implementing regulations prohibit the take of animal species listed as 
endangered or threatened. The term ``take'' is defined under the ESA 
(16 U.S.C. 1532) as to harass, harm, pursue, hunt, shoot, wound, kill, 
trap, capture, or collect, or to attempt to engage in any such conduct. 
``Harm'' is defined by Service regulation (50 CFR 17.3) 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. For certain 
circumstances, under Section 10(a)(1)(B) of the ESA we may issue 
permits to authorize ``incidental take'' of listed species. 
``Incidental take'' is defined by the ESA as take that is incidental 
to, and not the purpose of, carrying out an otherwise lawful activity. 
Regulations governing permits for threatened and endangered species are 
found in the Code of Federal Regulations at 50 CFR 17.32 and 50 CFR 
17.22, respectively. If the permit is issued, Green Diamond would 
receive assurances for all species included on the incidental take 
permit under the USFWS ``No Surprises'' regulation (50 CFR 17.22(b)(5) 
and 17.32 (b)(5)).
    Section 10 of the ESA specifies the requirements for the issuance 
of incidental take permits to non-Federal entities. Any proposed take 
must be incidental to otherwise lawful activities and cannot 
appreciably reduce the likelihood of the survival and recovery of the 
species in the wild. The impacts of such take must also be minimized 
and mitigated to the maximum extent practicable. To obtain an 
incidental take permit, an applicant must prepare a HCP describing the 
impact that will likely result from the proposed taking, the measures 
for minimizing and mitigating the take, the funding available to 
implement such measures, alternatives to the taking, and the reason why 
such alternatives are not being implemented.
    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, our proposed action is the authorization of 
incidental take through issuance of an ITP conditioned on our approval 
of Green Diamond's HCP. We will develop and evaluate a reasonable range 
of alternatives to the proposed action in our environmental review. 
Alternatives considered for analysis in an environmental document 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 
environmental document 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 
proposed action and alternatives. For potentially significant impacts, 
the environmental document may identify avoidance, minimization, and 
mitigation measures to reduce these impacts, where feasible, to a level 
below significance.


    Green Diamond (formerly Simpson Timber Company) owns more than 
400,000 acres in Del Norte, Humboldt, and Trinity Counties, California, 
which are managed as commercial timberland. Green Diamond's property 
includes habitat in landscapes important to the conservation of forest 
and aquatic wildlife species in the North Coast region of California. 
Some of Green Diamond's management activities have the potential to 
impact wildlife species protected by the ESA. Green Diamond is 
preparing a 50-year HCP that is

[[Page 19995]]

intended to provide for management of approximately 406,783 acres of 
its California properties in Del Norte and Humboldt Counties in a 
manner that will minimize and mitigate the impacts of take of certain 
wildlife species currently listed under the ESA or which may be listed 
during the life of the Plan. Once completed, we expect that Green 
Diamond will submit the HCP to us as part of an application for an ITP.
    Green Diamond is currently implementing two HCPs and associated 
incidental take permits on its northern California lands, one covering 
the northern spotted owl (issued in 1992) and the other covering 
aquatic species (issued in 2007).
    We issued a 30-year NSO ITP in September 1992, authorizing the 
incidental take of up to 50 spotted owl pairs. As required by the NSO 
HCP, Green Diamond and the USFWS conducted a comprehensive review of 
the first 10 years of implementation, including a comparison of actual 
and estimated levels of owl displacement, a comparison of estimated and 
actual distribution of habitat, a re-evaluation of the biological basis 
for the HCP's conservation strategy, an examination of the efficacy of 
and continued need for habitat set-asides, and an estimate of future 
owl displacements. During the comprehensive review, Green Diamond 
requested an amendment to the 1992 ITP to allow incidental take of up 
to eight additional spotted owl pairs, to provide operational 
flexibility while we and Green Diamond evaluated the findings of the 
comprehensive review. In October 2007 we published a Final 
Environmental Assessment and approved an amendment to the 1992 ITP 
authorizing incidental take of eight additional spotted owl pairs.
    In 2007, we issued an enhancement of survival permit (ESP), and the 
National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS) issued a separate ITP to Green 
Diamond, based on a federally approved Aquatic HCP designed to address 
listed and unlisted fish and amphibian species. That Aquatic HCP and 
ITP/ESP establish standards for management and maintenance of 
streamside protection and geologic hazard zones with limited timber 
harvest entry, along with other aquatic species conservation measures.
    In the near future, Green Diamond intends to submit a new proposed 
HCP addressing the northern spotted owl, and perhaps also the fisher. 
This new HCP, which would replace the 1992 HCP and ITP, will be based 
upon the results of the NSO HCP comprehensive review, and the results 
of extensive NSO and other monitoring and research conducted by Green 
Diamond, the USFWS, and other entities. During the nearly 18 years of 
implementation of the 1992 HCP, Green Diamond conducted extensive 
monitoring and research on spotted owls, fishers, and other species. In 
addition, the recently implemented Aquatic HCP includes provisions for 
streamside management and geologic hazard zones that Green Diamond 
anticipates will provide benefits to spotted owls, fishers, and other 
terrestrial species. The new HCP will seek to integrate terrestrial 
species conservation measures with compatible elements of the Aquatic 
HCP, including the associated establishment and management of 
streamside protection and geological hazard zones, and incorporate 
updated information on spotted owls and fishers, to more effectively 
conserve those species and their habitats.

Proposed Plan

    The proposed new HCP will likely cover the following activities, 
which could result in incidental take of the covered species: 
Mechanized timber harvest; forest product transportation; construction, 
use, maintenance and abandonment of roads and landings; site 
preparation; tree planting; certain types of vegetation management; 
fertilizer application; forest thinning; fire suppression; rock 
quarries and borrow pit operations; gravel extraction; other forest 
management and silvicultural activities typical of commercial 
timberland operation in northwestern California; and implementation of 
take avoidance, minimization, mitigation, and conservation measures, 
including habitat management, deadwood management, species monitoring, 
and species research projects.
    As required by the ESA, the proposed new HCP must specify the 
measures Green Diamond will take to minimize and mitigate the impacts 
of the proposed incidental take to the maximum extent practicable. We 
anticipate that the proposed new HCP will address some or all of the 
    (1) Retention of suitable nesting habitat associated with all or 
some portion of active spotted owl sites well distributed throughout 
Green Diamond's ownership;
    (2) Specific habitat management measures, including retention and 
recruitment of late seral habitat elements;
    (3) The use of dynamic core areas of spotted owl habitat in lieu of 
and/or in conjunction with the retention of some or all currently 
existing static set-asides identified in the 1992 NSO HCP;
    (4) Conditions under which currently retained owl sites may be 
released for harvest following future establishment of spotted owl nest 
sites in maturing streamside retention zones established and managed 
pursuant to the Aquatic HCP;
    (5) Distribution of owl retention sites across the Green Diamond 
landscape in a clustering pattern, rather than a random or uniform 
pattern, based upon documented conservation principles for the species;
    (6) Appropriate forest age class distribution constituting suitable 
spotted owl and fisher habitat in the redwood (Sequoia sempervirens) 
    (7) Stand-specific habitat elements to be retained or managed 
during harvest to promote future habitat suitability for the covered 
    (8) Studies of barred owl and spotted owl interactions and, if 
warranted, authorization for implementation of a barred owl management 
    (9) Current requirements imposed on Green Diamond as mandated by 
other applicable Federal and State laws; and
    (10) An effectiveness monitoring program, which will include 
ongoing spotted owl and fisher studies to validate and/or revise 
habitat models.

Environmental Review of This Proposal

    Prior to issuing a new ITP, we will prepare a draft Environmental 
Impact Statement (EIS) to analyze the environmental impacts associated 
with the potential issuance of the requested ITP and the implementation 
of the HCP by Green Diamond. The EIS will be prepared in accordance 
with the requirements of NEPA and its implementing regulations (40 CFR 
parts 1500 through 1508), and in accordance with other applicable 
Federal laws and regulations and USFWS policies and procedures for 
compliance with those regulations. We anticipate that the draft EIS 
will be available for public review by Fall/Winter 2010.
    The EIS will analyze the environmental impacts of the proposed 
action (permit issuance) and of a reasonable range of alternatives. We 
are currently in the process of developing alternatives for analysis. 
In connection with developing the alternatives, we will consider, for 
example, modified lists of covered species, modified permit coverage 
areas (i.e., portions of the landscape subject to permit coverage), 
modified permit terms, and different resource management strategies 
that would serve the purpose of minimizing and mitigating the impacts 
of incidental take.
    Based on our consideration of these factors to date, we anticipate 

[[Page 19996]]

alternatives to the proposed Plan may include the following: (1) A ``no 
action'' alternative in which the requested ITP would not be issued and 
the conservation measures in the proposed new HCP would not be 
implemented; (2) an alternative that would focus on northern spotted 
owls and that would not include deadwood management and other habitat 
management efforts intended primarily to provide conservation benefits 
to the fisher; (3) an alternative that would include other species as 
covered species, with appropriate habitat management for them; (4) an 
alternative that would not include measures to manage barred owls; and 
(5) an alternative that would not utilize dynamic core areas but would 
instead maintain the static set-aside approach from the 1992 NSO HCP/
    We invite comments and suggestions from all interested parties to 
ensure consideration of a full range of reasonable alternatives related 
to development of the EIS, and that all significant issues are 
identified. We request that comments be as specific as possible, and 
that comments include information and concerns regarding the following 
    (1) The direct, indirect, and cumulative effects that 
implementation of any reasonable alternatives could have on endangered 
and threatened species and their habitats;
    (2) Other reasonable alternatives consistent with the purpose of 
the proposed new HCP as described above, and their associated effects;
    (3) Measures that would minimize and mitigate potentially adverse 
effects of the proposed action;
    (4) Baseline environmental conditions in and adjacent to the 
covered lands;
    (5) Adaptive management or monitoring provisions that may be 
incorporated into the alternatives, and their benefits to listed 
    (6) Other plans or projects that might be relevant to this action; 
    (7) Any other information pertinent to evaluating the effects of 
the proposed action on the human environment.
    The EIS will analyze and document the effects that the considered 
alternatives would have on spotted owls, fishers, and any other 
species, as well as other components of the human environment, 
including but not limited to cultural resources, social resources 
(including public safety), economic resources, water and air quality, 
global climate change, and environmental justice.
    Please direct any comments to the USFWS contact listed above in the 
ADDRESSES section, and any questions to the USFWS contact listed in the 
FOR FURTHER INFORMATION CONTACT section. All comments and materials 
received, including names and addresses, will become part of the 
administrative record and may be released to the public. Before 
including your address, phone number, e-mail address, or other personal 
identifying information in your comment, you should be aware that your 
entire comment--including your personal identifying information--may be 
made publicly available at any time. While you can ask us in your 
comment to withhold your personal identifying information from public 
review, we cannot guarantee that we will be able to do so. This notice 
is provided under section 10(a) of the ESA and USFWS regulations for 
implementing NEPA (40 CFR 1506.6).

Michael Fris,
Acting Deputy Regional Director, Pacific Southwest Region, Sacramento, 
[FR Doc. 2010-8763 Filed 4-15-10; 8:45 am]