[Federal Register Volume 76, Number 219 (Monday, November 14, 2011)]
[Pages 70479-70480]
From the Federal Register Online via the Government Printing Office [www.gpo.gov]
[FR Doc No: 2011-29044]



Fish and Wildlife Service

[FWS-R2-ES-2010-N174; 20124-1112-0000-F2]

Draft Environmental Assessment and Safe Harbor Agreement for the 
Houston Toad Within Nine Texas Counties

AGENCY: Fish and Wildlife Service, Interior.

ACTION: Notice of availability; receipt of application.


SUMMARY: The Environmental Defense Fund (Applicant) has applied to the 
U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (Service) for an enhancement of survival 
permit pursuant to a section of the Endangered Species Act of 1973, as 
amended. The requested permit, which is for a period of 30 years, would 
authorize incidental take of the endangered Houston toad (Bufo 
houstonensis) as a result of conservation actions, land management, and 
other land-use activities. We invite the public to review and comment 
on the permit application and the associated draft Safe Harbor 
Agreement (Agreement).

DATES: Written comments should be received on or before January 13, 

ADDRESSES: You may submit comments or requests for copies or more 
information by any of the following methods. You may request hard 
copies or a CD-ROM of the documents.
     Email: Edith_Erfling@fws.gov. Include ``Clear Lake 
Ecological Services Field Office draft Houston Toad Programatic SHA/
draft EA'' in the subject line of the message.
     Fax: [Attn: Field Supervisor], (281) 488-5882.
     U.S. Mail: 17629 El Camino Real, Suite 211, Houston, Texas 
     In-Person Drop-off, Viewing, or Pickup: Call (281) 286-
8282 to make an appointment (necessary for view/pickup only) during 
regular business hours at 17629 El Camino Real, Suite 211, Houston, 
Texas 77058. For more information on locations for viewing or obtaining 
documents, see ``Public Availability of Documents'' under SUPPLEMENTARY 

FOR FURTHER INFORMATION CONTACT: Marty Tuegel, at the Service's 
Southwest Regional Office, P.O. Box 1306, Albuquerque, New Mexico 87103 
(505) 248-6651).

SUPPLEMENTARY INFORMATION: Under a Safe Harbor Agreement, participating 
property owners voluntarily undertake management activities to enhance, 
restore, or maintain habitat benefiting species listed under the 
Endangered Species 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 as a result of increased target 
species abundance due to their efforts to improve conditions for listed 
species 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.
    Non-Federal landowners within Austin, Bastrop, Burleson, Colorado, 
Lavaca, Lee, Leon, Milam, and Robertson Counties, Texas, may be 
enrolled under the proposed Agreement if it is approved by entering 
into a Cooperative Agreement with the Applicant. The Cooperative 
Agreement will include: (1) A map of the property and its legal 
location; (2) the portion of the property to be enrolled and its 
acreage; (3) a description of the habitat types that occur on the 
portion of the property to be enrolled, including

[[Page 70480]]

accurate descriptions of vegetation, water features, and soil types; 
(4) current land use practices and existing development; and (5) a 
detailed account of conservation activities to be undertaken on the 
portion of the property to be enrolled. After signing a Cooperative 
Agreement, landowners will receive a certificate of inclusion to 
document landowners' participation in the Safe Harbor Agreement and 
convey incidental take authorization from the Applicant to certificate 
recipients. The Applicant will be responsible for annual monitoring and 
reporting related to implementation of the Safe Harbor Agreement and 
Cooperative Agreements and fulfillment of their provisions.
    We have worked with the Applicant to design conservation activities 
expected to have a net conservation benefit to the Houston toad within 
the nine Texas counties to be covered under this proposed Agreement. 
These conservation activities include: (1) Brush management to create 
desired understory conditions and facilitate restoration of native 
ground cover; (2) forest enhancement/restoration to create favorable 
canopy conditions; (3) prescribed burning to restore, create, and 
maintain desired understory and ground cover conditions; (4) 
enhancement of existing breeding ponds to provide habitat for breeding 
adults and emerging toadlets; (5) control of red imported fire ants to 
maximize successful toadlet survival; (6) creation of new breeding 
ponds; and (7) headstarting and/or reintroduction of captively bred 
Houston toads (see section 5 ``Conservation Activities'' in the draft 
    These conservation activities are expected to: (1) Enhance Houston 
toad foraging and hibernating habitat; (2) create and enhance Houston 
toad breeding and toadlet emergence habitat; (3) facilitate Houston 
toad dispersal through the creation and enhancement of habitat linkages 
throughout the species' range; (4) increase Houston toad population 
numbers through headstarting and reintroduction; and (5) facilitate 
viable, self-sustaining Houston toad subpopulations.
    The incidental take of toads may occur from: (1) Habitat management 
actions conducted in accordance with the conservation activities in the 
Agreement, (2) ongoing land use activities that may have an increased 
chance of taking a toad if toad numbers increase, as expected, and (3) 
cessation of the conservation activities, return to baseline 
activities; if enrolled landowners exercise their authorization to do 
so under the permit.
    The impacts of permit issuance and implementation on the human 
environment are analyzed within the draft Environmental Assessment, in 
compliance with the National Environmental Policy Act of 1969.
    Section 9 of the Endangered Species Act of 1973, as amended (16 
U.S.C. 1531 et seq.) prohibits ``taking'' of threatened or endangered 
species. However, the Service, under limited circumstances, may issue 
permits to take threatened and endangered wildlife species incidental 
to, and not the purpose of, otherwise lawful activities.

Public Availability of Comments

    Before including your address, phone number, email 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.


    We provide this notice pursuant to section 10(c) of the Endangered 
Species Act of 1973, as amended (16 U.S.C. 1531 et seq.), its 
implementing regulations (50 CFR 17.22), and the National Environmental 
Policy Act (42 CFR 4371 et seq.).

    Authority:  16 U.S.C. 1531 et seq.

    Dated: October 13, 2011.
Joy E. Nicholopoulos,
Acting Regional Director, Southwest Region, Fish and Wildlife Service.
[FR Doc. 2011-29044 Filed 11-10-11; 8:45 am]