[Federal Register Volume 77, Number 169 (Thursday, August 30, 2012)]
[Pages 52754-52755]
From the Federal Register Online via the Government Printing Office [www.gpo.gov]
[FR Doc No: 2012-21498]



Fish and Wildlife Service

[FWS-R3-ES-2012-N179; FXES11120300000F2-123-FF03E00000]

Draft Midwest Wind Energy Multi-Species Habitat Conservation Plan 
Within Eight-State Planning Area

AGENCY: Fish and Wildlife Service, Interior.

ACTION: Notice of intent, request for comments.


SUMMARY: We, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (Service), advise the 
public that we, in coordination with our planning partners, intend to 
prepare the Midwest Wind Energy Multi-Species Habitat Conservation Plan 
(MSHCP) under the Endangered Species Act of 1973, as amended (ESA). The 
planning partners are currently considering for inclusion in the MSHCP 
certain species that are federally listed, as well as other species 
likely to become listed, within the eight-State planning area. Planning 
partners in this effort include the conservation agencies for the eight 
states, The Conservation Fund, and the American Wind Energy Association 
(AWEA). We provide this notice to (1) Describe the proposal; (2) advise 
other Federal and State agencies, potentially affected tribal 
interests, and the public of our intent to prepare the MSHCP; (3) seek 
public input, suggestions, and information on any issues pertaining to 
this planning process; (4) and to seek public input on what the permit 
area should be within the eight-State planning area.

DATES: To ensure consideration, we request written comments on or 
before October 1, 2012.

ADDRESSES: Send your comments or request information by any one of the 
following methods:
    U.S. Mail: Regional Director, Attn: Rick Amidon, U.S. Fish and 
Wildlife Service, Ecological Services, 5600 American Blvd. West, Suite 
990, Bloomington, MN 55437-1458;
    Facsimile: 612/713-5292 (Attn: Rick Amidon); or
    Email: midwestwindhcp@fws.gov.

FOR FURTHER INFORMATION CONTACT: Rick Amidon, (612) 713-5164.

SUPPLEMENTARY INFORMATION: Section 9 of the ESA (16 U.S.C. 1538) and 
its implementing regulations prohibit take of species listed as 
endangered or threatened. The definition of take under the ESA includes 
to ``harass, harm, pursue, hunt, shoot, wound, kill, trap, capture, or 
collect listed species or to attempt to engage in such conduct'' (16 
U.S.C. 1532(19)). Section 10 of the ESA (16 U.S.C. 1539) establishes a 
program whereby persons seeking to pursue activities that are otherwise 
legal, but could result in take of federally protected species, may 
receive an incidental take permit (ITP).

Covered Land

    The planning area encompasses the Midwest Region of the Service and 
includes all or portions of the following eight States: Illinois, 
Indiana, Iowa, Michigan, Minnesota, Missouri, Ohio, and Wisconsin. The 
specific land that the MSHCP will cover (``covered land or permit 
area'') have yet to be determined and could be all or portions of the 
eight States. Once identified, the ``covered land'' will be the general 
locations where future ITPs could be issued under the MSHCP. Land not 
identified as ``covered land'' will not be eligible for an ITP under 
this planning effort; however, individual take authorizations could be 
developed for those areas outside of this planning effort.

Covered Activities

    The activities proposed to be covered (``covered activities'') 
under the MSHCP include the siting, construction, operation, 
maintenance, and decommissioning of wind energy facilities within all 
or portions of the eight-State planning area. Activities associated 
with the management of mitigation land would also be covered. We 
anticipate that this MSHCP will include new and existing small-scale 
wind energy facilities, such as single-turbine demonstration projects, 
as well as large, multi-turbine commercial wind facilities.

Covered Species

    The planning partners are currently considering, for inclusion in 
the MSHCP, certain species that are federally listed or likely to 
become listed, and have the potential to be taken by wind energy 
facilities within the planning area. Those ``covered species'' include 
the endangered Indiana bat (Myotis sodalis), the endangered gray bat 
(Myotis grisescens), the endangered piping plover (Charadrius melodus), 
the endangered interior least tern (Sternula antillarum athalassos), 
the endangered Kirtland's warbler (Setophaga kirtlandii), the little 
brown bat (Myotis lucifugus), the northern-long eared bat (Myotis 
septentrionalis), and the eastern small-footed bat (Myotis leibii), all 
of which are species of concern. The bald eagle (Haliaeetus 
leucocephalus) is also being considered as a ``covered species,'' but 
no decision has been made at this time. The final list of ``covered 
species'' may include all these species, a subset of these species, or 
additional species, based on the outcome of the planning process. The 
MSHCP will be multifaceted in addressing species protection, including, 
but not limited to, avoidance, minimization of take (e.g., through 
proven and defined best management practices), and mitigation to offset 
the impacts of take through potential habitat preservation, 
restoration, and enhancement. Future applicants seeking an ITP must 
also ensure that adequate funding for implementation, including 
biological and compliance monitoring, is provided.

[[Page 52755]]


    The eight State conservation agencies participating in the 
development of this MSHCP are the Illinois Department of Natural 
Resources, Indiana Division of Fish and Wildlife, Iowa Department of 
Natural Resources, Michigan Department of Natural Resources, Minnesota 
Department of Natural Resources, Missouri Department of Conservation, 
Ohio Department of Natural Resources, and Wisconsin Department of 
Natural Resources.
    AWEA is a national trade association for the wind industry and is 
representing the interests of a group of wind energy companies in the 
development of this MSHCP. This consortium of companies is known as the 
Wind Energy Bat Action Team (WEBAT). Member companies at this time 
include Acciona Wind Energy; Akuo Energy USA; Apex Wind Energy; BP Wind 
Energy; Clipper Windpower Development Company, LLC; Duke Energy 
Renewables; EDP Renewables; Element Power; enXco; E.ON Climate & 
Renewables; EverPower Wind Holdings, Inc.; Iberdrola Renewables; 
Invenergy LLC; NextEra Energy Resources; Nordex USA; Tradewind Energy 
LLC; US Mainstream Renewable Power; and Wind Capital Group.
    The Conservation Fund is a nonprofit organization headquartered in 
Arlington, Virginia, with offices throughout the United States. The 
Conservation Fund would serve as the administrative agent on behalf of 
the States overseeing the development of the MSHCP and the accompanying 
environmental impact statement (EIS). Moreover, The Conservation Fund 
would develop a regional framework of conservation lands to be used as 
a decision support tool for the selection of appropriate mitigation 
options required for offsetting incidental take of the ``covered 

MSHCP Structure

    In 2009, the eight States that make up the planning area submitted 
an application for and were awarded a grant under Section 6 of the ESA 
(16 U.S.C. 1535) to develop the MSHCP and an incidental take permitting 
program. The States' grant application envisioned that the MSHCP would 
be developed as a template/umbrella MSHCP or as a programmatic MSHCP. 
Under the template approach, the Service would issue individual ITPs to 
applicants that agree to implement the MSHCP, whereas under the 
programmatic approach, each State agency would apply for and receive an 
ITP and would issue certificates of inclusion to wind energy companies 
that agreed to implement the MSHCP at their facility. At this time it 
is anticipated that the issuance of individual ITPs would be the 
permitting approach under this MSHCP. Currently there are additional 
permit structure options being considered; however, under any permit 
structure, the MSHCP would meet all ITP issuance criteria found at 50 
CFR 13.21, 17.22(b), and 17.32(b), and would be evaluated under the 
National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) and Section 7 of the ESA (16 
U.S.C. 1536). The partners envision that under any permit approach, no 
additional NEPA or Section 7 analysis would occur, and ``No Surprises'' 
assurances would apply to the MSHCP. Evaluation of the MSHCP and 
permitting program would include public review by all interested 
parties. In the event that the MSHCP might need to be amended in the 
future (e.g., to add a species or consider an activity not previously 
evaluated), further public review would occur.

Public Comments

    The Service is requesting information and comment from interested 
government agencies, Native American Tribes, the scientific community, 
industry, or other interested parties concerning the planning process, 
our permitting approach, biological aspects of the interaction of wind 
facilities and species, scientific data that may help inform the MSHCP 
or monitoring of impacts, and any other information that interested 
parties would like to offer.
    Please note that comments merely stating support for, or opposition 
to, the MSHCP under consideration without providing supporting 
information, although noted, will not provide information useful in 
determining relevant issues and impacts. The public will receive 
additional opportunity to provide comments on the draft EIS and draft 
MSHCP when they are completed. The Service will solicit comments by 
publishing notice in the Federal Register.
    You may submit your comments and supporting documentation by any of 
the methods described in ADDRESSES, above.

National Environmental Policy Act

    The Service is responsible for ensuring NEPA (42 U.S.C. 4321 et 
seq.) compliance during the MSHCP process. In compliance with NEPA, we 
have made an initial determination that the proposed issuance of ITPs 
under this planning effort will require the development of an EIS. A 
third-party contractor will be selected in the future to work with the 
Service and the planning partners to develop an EIS that will satisfy 
all NEPA requirements. Subsequent notice will be provided when the 
planning process has progressed to the point where scoping under NEPA 
is appropriate.

    Dated: August 17, 2012.
Terence J. Miller,
Acting, Assistant Regional Director, Ecological Services, Midwest 
[FR Doc. 2012-21498 Filed 8-29-12; 8:45 am]