[Federal Register Volume 77, Number 244 (Wednesday, December 19, 2012)]
[Pages 75185-75186]
From the Federal Register Online via the Government Printing Office [www.gpo.gov]
[FR Doc No: 2012-30470]



Fish and Wildlife Service

[FWS-R6-ES-2012-N190; FF06E16000-123-FXES11130600000D2]

Endangered and Threatened Wildlife and Plants; Enhancement of 
Survival Permit Application; Draft Black-Footed Ferret Programmatic 
Safe Harbor Agreement and Environmental Assessment

AGENCY: Fish and Wildlife Service, Interior.

ACTION: Notice of availability; request for comments.


SUMMARY: We, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, have received an 
application from the Black-footed Ferret Recovery Implementation 
Coordinator for an enhancement of survival permit under the Endangered 
Species Act of 1973, as amended (ESA). The application includes a draft 
programmatic Safe Harbor Agreement (Agreement) to reintroduce the 
federally endangered black-footed ferret on properties of voluntary 
participants across the species' range to further recovery of this 
species. Pursuant to the ESA and the National Environmental Policy Act, 
we announce the availability of the draft Agreement and draft 
environmental assessment (EA) for review and comment by the public and 
Federal, Tribal, State, and local governments.

DATES: Written comments must be submitted by January 18, 2013.

ADDRESSES: Send written comments by U.S. mail to Kimberly Tamkun, U.S. 
Fish and Wildlife Service, National Black-footed Ferret Conservation 
Center, P.O. Box 190, Wellington, CO 80549-0190, or via email to 
FerretSHA@fws.gov. You also may send comments by facsimile to (970) 
897-2732. The draft Agreement and EA are available on the Black-Footed 
Ferret Recovery Program Web site at http://www.blackfootedferret.org/. 
You also may review copies of these documents during regular business 
hours at the National Black-footed Ferret Conservation Center (Ferret 
Center), 19180 North East Frontage Road Carr, CO 80612-9719. If you do 
not have access to the Web site or cannot visit our office, you may 
request copies by telephone at (970) 897-2730 ext. 238 or by letter to 
the Ferret Center.

FOR FURTHER INFORMATION CONTACT: Pete Gober, Black-footed Ferret 
Recovery Coordinator, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, (970) 897-2730 
ext. 224; pete_gober@fws.gov.

SUPPLEMENTARY INFORMATION: Under a Safe Harbor Agreement, participating 
landowners voluntarily undertake conservation activities on their 
property to benefit species listed under the ESA (16 U.S.C. 1531 et 
seq.). Enrolled landowners have the option to return their property to 
baseline conditions established at the time the Agreement was 
developed. If the Agreement meets all the permit issuance criteria, we 
issue an enhancement-of-survival permit under section 10(a)(1)(A) of 
the ESA. The permit authorizes incidental take of the covered species 
that may result from implementation of conservation actions,

[[Page 75186]]

specific land uses, and return to baseline under the Agreement. We also 
provide enrollees assurances that we will not impose further land, 
water, or resource-use restrictions or additional commitments of land, 
water, or finances beyond that agreed to in the Agreement. Application 
requirements and issuance criteria for enhancement-of-survival permits 
through Safe Harbor Agreements are found in 50 CFR 17.22 and 17.32.
    We are providing this notice under section 10(c) of the ESA and 
National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) regulations (40 CFR 1506.6; 43 
CFR part 46). We are requesting comments on the proposed Agreement and 
issuance of enhancement-of-survival permit. We prepared a draft 
environmental assessment (EA) to comply with NEPA (42 U.S.C. 4321 et 
seq.), and will evaluate whether the proposed Agreement, issuance of 
permit, and other alternatives in the draft EA may cause significant 
impacts to the quality of the human environment. We also invite 
comments on the draft EA.
    The historic range of the black-footed ferret (Mustela nigripes) 
overlaps with suitable habitat supporting black-tailed, white-tailed, 
and Gunnison's prairie-dog (their primary prey) in portions of the 12 
States of Arizona, Colorado, Kansas, Montana, Nebraska, New Mexico, 
North Dakota, Oklahoma, South Dakota, Texas, Utah, and Wyoming, as well 
as Canada and Mexico. The black-footed ferret was twice considered 
extinct or nearly extinct before all known wild ferrets were captured 
for captive breeding in 1985. Today, due to reintroduction efforts, 20 
populations exist throughout the species' range. However, the Service's 
1988 Recovery Plan and 2009 Spotlight Species Action Plan for the 
ferret advise that more ferret populations be established to move 
toward recovery.
    Therefore, we have developed the proposed Agreement to provide 
incentives for landowners to volunteer lands with adequate habitat for 
ferret reintroductions across the historic range of the species within 
the United States. Under the proposed Agreement, we would issue a 
permit to the Black-footed Ferret Recovery Implementation Coordinator, 
who would then enroll willing landowners under certificates of 
inclusion that would confer incidental take authorization and 
assurances to the enrollees. Consistent with the Safe Harbor policy (64 
FR 32717) and section 7 of the ESA, we would also provide non-enrolled 
neighboring landowners with incidental take authorization through the 
section 7 biological opinion and assurances to those neighbors who sign 
a separate agreement.
    To enroll in the Agreement, an eligible landowner would voluntarily 
work with the Coordinator to develop a site-specific reintroduction 
plan. Each reintroduction plan would identify a conservation zone on 
the enrollee's property, consisting of either (a) at least 1,500 acres 
of habitat occupied by black-tailed prairie dogs (Cynomys ludovicianus) 
or (b) 3,000 acres occupied by white-tailed prairie dogs (Cynomys 
leucurus) or Gunnison's prairie dogs (Cynomys gunnisoni). The 
conservation zone would be targeted for ferret reintroductions. 
Depending on the needs of the enrollee, a management zone surrounding 
the conservation zone might also be established. Because grazing is 
considered compatible with ferret habitat, enrollees may graze their 
cattle in the both zones throughout the life of the reintroduction 
plan. If necessary, efforts to control diseases, such as sylvatic 
plague, will be carried out in both zones. Prairie dog control may also 
occur within the management zone, as necessary, but not in the 
conservation zone. Where beneficial, State wildlife agencies, tribes, 
the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, Animal Plant Health Inspection 
Service--Wildlife Services, the Natural Resources Conservation Service, 
the U.S. Geological Survey, nongovernmental organizations, and other 
partners may be party to the reintroduction plan to assist 
implementation by the enrolled landowner. Each reintroduction plan 
would have a term of 10 to 40 years within the duration of the 
Agreement, which is proposed to be 50 years.

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.

    Dated: November 29, 2012.
Michael Thabault,
Acting Regional Director--Ecological Services, Mountain-Prairie Region, 
Denver, Colorado.
[FR Doc. 2012-30470 Filed 12-18-12; 8:45 am]