[Federal Register Volume 77, Number 34 (Tuesday, February 21, 2012)]
[Pages 9958-9959]
From the Federal Register Online via the Government Printing Office [www.gpo.gov]
[FR Doc No: 2012-3880]



Fish and Wildlife Service

[FWS-R4-ES-2011-N195; FXES11150400000F4-123-FF04E00000]

Spring Pygmy Sunfish Candidate Conservation Agreement With 
Assurances; Receipt of Application for Enhancement of Survival Permit; 
Beaverdam Springs, Limestone County, AL

AGENCY: Fish and Wildlife Service, Interior.

ACTION: Notice of availability; request for comments.


SUMMARY: We, the Fish and Wildlife Service (Service), have received an 
application from Mr. Banks Sewell of Belle Mina Farm Ltd. (applicant) 
for an enhancement of survival permit (permit) under the Endangered 
Species Act of 1973, as amended (Act). The permit application includes 
a proposed candidate conservation agreement with assurances (CCAA), 
between the applicant, the Land Trust of Huntsville and North Alabama, 
and the Service for the spring pygmy sunfish. The CCAA would be 
implemented at the Beaverdam--Moss Creek/Spring Complex within 
Limestone County, Alabama. We have made a preliminary determination 
that the proposed CCAA and permit application are eligible for 
categorical exclusion under the National Environmental Policy Act of 
1969 (NEPA). The basis for this preliminary determination is contained 
in a draft environmental action statement (EAS). We are accepting 
comments on the permit application, the proposed CCAA, and the draft 

DATES: We must receive comments no later than March 22, 2012.

ADDRESSES: Persons wishing to review the application, the draft CCAA, 
and the draft EAS may obtain copies by request from Daniel Drennen, 
Mississippi Field Office, by phone at 601-321-1127, or via mail or 
email (see below). The application and related documents will also be 
available for public inspection, by appointment only, during normal 
business hours (8 a.m. to 4:30 p.m.) at the Jackson, Mississippi, Field 
Office (address listed below) or on our Web site at http://www.fws.gov/mississippiES/endsp.html.
    Comments concerning the application, the draft CCAA, and the draft 
EAS should be submitted in writing, by one of the following methods:
    Email: daniel_drennen@fws.gov.
    Fax: 601-965-4340.
    U.S. mail: Daniel Drennen, Mississippi Field Office, U.S. Fish and 
Wildlife Service, 6578 Dogwood View Parkway, Jackson, MS 39213.
    Please refer to Permit number TE-40219A-0 when submitting comments.

FOR FURTHER INFORMATION CONTACT: Daniel Drennen, Fish and Wildlife 
Biologist, Mississippi Field Office, 601-321-1127. If you use a 
telecommunications device for the deaf (TDD), you may call the Federal 
Information Relay Service (FIRS) at 800-877-8339.

SUPPLEMENTARY INFORMATION: We furnish this notice to provide the 
public, other State and Federal agencies, and interested Tribes an 
opportunity to review and comment on the permit application, including 
the draft CCAA and draft EAS. We specifically request information, 
views, and opinions from the public on the proposed Federal action of 
issuing a permit. Further, we solicit information regarding the 
adequacy of the permit application, including the proposed CCAA, as 
measured against our permit issuance criteria found in the Code of 
Federal Regulations (CFR) at 50 CFR 17.22(d) and 17.32(d).


    Under a Candidate Conservation Agreement with Assurances, 
participating landowners voluntarily undertake management activities on 
their property to enhance, restore, or maintain habitat benefiting 
species that are proposed for listing under the Act, candidates for 
listing, or that may become candidates or proposed for listing. 
Candidate Conservation Agreements with Assurances (CCAAs), and the 
associated permits we issue under section 10(a)(l)(A) of the Act (16 
U.S.C. 1531. et seq.), encourage private and other non-Federal property 
owners to implement conservation efforts for species by assuring 
property owners that they will not be subjected to increased land use 
restrictions if that species becomes listed under the Act in the future 
provided certain conditions are met. Application requirements and 
issuance criteria for permits through CCAAs are found in the Code of 
Federal Regulations (CFR) at 50 CFR 17.22(d) and 17.32(d). See also our 
policy on CCAAs (64 FR 32 726; June 17, 1999).
    The conservation of the spring pygmy sunfish (Elassoma alabamae) is 
of concern to the Service, other biologists, and the landowners whose 
properties contain the species. The spring pygmy sunfish is a spring-
associated fish, endemic to the Tennessee River drainage of Lauderdale 
and Limestone Counties in northern Alabama. The species historically 
occurred in three distinct spring complexes (Cave Springs, Lauderdale 
County; Beaverdam Springs and Pryor Springs, Limestone County). The 
single remaining population of this species occupies about 5 river 
miles (mi) (8.05 river kilometers (km)) within four spring pools (Moss, 
Beaverdam, Thorsen, and Horton Springs) associated with the upper 
Beaverdam Springs complex in Limestone County, Alabama.
    The preferred habitat for the spring pygmy sunfish is clear and 
colorless to slightly stained spring water, spring runs, and associated 
spring-fed wetlands (Warren 2004). The species is highly localized 
within these spring pools and is found in association with patches of 
dense, filamentous submergent vegetation. Spring pygmy sunfish 
abundance is correlated with specific water quantity and quality 
parameters (i.e., water flow velocity, turbidity, and water 
temperatures) and certain associated species such as amphipods, 
isopods, spring salamanders, crayfish, and snails (Sandel, pers. comm., 
    On April 1, 2011, the Service published a 90-day finding on a 
petition to list the spring pygmy sunfish as endangered under the Act 
(76 FR 18138). The Service found that the petition presented 
substantial scientific or commercial information indicating that 
listing this species may be warranted, and announced the initiation of 
a formal status review. For further information on previous Federal 
actions regarding the species, please refer to the 90-day finding. As a 
result of our ``substantial'' 90-day finding, we are currently 
collecting and analyzing data to assess the species' status. At the end 
of the yearlong period, the Service will publish a finding, known 
commonly as a ``12-month finding,'' on whether or not listing is 
warranted. In accordance with court-approved settlement entered into 
last year with Wild Earth Guardians and the Center for Biological 
Diversity, if we determine that listing is warranted, our 12-month 
finding will include a proposed rule to list the spring pygmy sunfish 
under the Act.
    The area to be covered under the proposed CCAA is approximately 
3,200 acres within the Beaverdam Springs complex, owned by the 
applicant and located in Limestone County, Alabama. The proposed CCAA 
represents a significant milestone in the cooperative conservation 
efforts for this species and

[[Page 9959]]

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.
    The applicant agrees to implement conservation measures to address 
known threats to the spring pygmy sunfish. These measures will help 
protect the species in the near term and also minimize any incidental 
take of the species that might occur as a result of conducting other 
covered activities, if the species becomes listed under the Act in the 
future. Conservation measures to be implemented by the applicant 
include: (1) Maintaining up to a 150-foot vegetated buffer zone around 
Moss Spring Pond; (2) prohibiting cattle access to Moss Spring Pond and 
the buffer zone described above; (3) creating a protected area of 
approximately 150 acres, with a 100-150 foot vegetated buffer zone, 
within the Beaverdam Spring/Creek area, including a portion of ``Lowe 
Ditch''; and (4) refraining from any deforestation, land clearing, 
industrial development, residential development, aquaculture, temporary 
or permanent ground water removal installations, stocked farm ponds, 
pesticide and herbicide use, and impervious surface installation 
without prior consultation with the Service and the Service's written 
    The Land Trust of Huntsville and North Alabama agrees: (1) To be 
responsible for all reporting requirements, including any changes to 
the monitoring when necessary for adaptive management; (2) to ensure 
that annual habitat analyses and site samplings are performed as 
specified by the CCAA; and (3) to provide funding for part or all of 
said monitoring activities.
    The Service agrees to authorize the applicant to engage in 
incidental take of the spring pygmy sunfish consistent with this CCAA 
and to provide technical assistance, including management advice.
    The term of the proposed CCAA and associated enhancement of 
survival permit is twenty (20) years. However, under a special 
provision of this CCAA, if at any time a 15-percent decline in the 
status of the species is determined, there will be a reevaluation of 
the conservation measures set forth in the CCAA. If such a reevaluation 
reflects a need to change the conservation measures, the revised 
measures will be implemented by the applicant, or the CCAA will be 
terminated and the permit surrendered.
    When determining whether to issue the permit, we will consider a 
number of factors and information sources, including the project's 
administrative record, any public comments we receive, and the 
application requirements and issuance criteria for CCAAs contained in 
50 CFR 17.22(d) and 17.32(d). We will also evaluate whether the 
issuance of the permit complies with section 7 of the Act by conducting 
an intra-Service consultation. Our decision to issue the permit will be 
based on the results of this consultation, as well as on the above 
findings, our regulations, and public comments.
    The proposed CCAA also provides regulatory assurances to the 
applicant that, in the event of changed and/or unforeseen 
circumstances, we would not require additional conservation measures, 
or commitment of additional land, water, or resource use restrictions, 
beyond the level obligated in this agreement, without the consent of 
the applicant provided certain conditions are met.
    We will evaluate this permit application, associated documents, and 
comments submitted thereon to determine whether the permit application 
meets the requirements of section 10(a)(1) of the Act, our regulations, 
and NEPA regulations at 40 CFR 1506.6. If we determine that the 
requirements are met, we will enter into the CCAA and issue a permit 
under section 10(a)(l)(A) of the Act to the applicant for take of the 
spring pygmy sunfish in accordance with the terms of the agreement. We 
will not make a final decision in this matter until after the end of 
the 30-day comment period, and we will fully consider all comments 
received during the comment period.


    We provide this notice under both section 10(c) of the Act (16 
U.S.C. 1531. et seq.) and its implementing regulations (50 CFR 17.22 
and 17.32), and the National Environmental Policy Act (42 U.S.C 4371 et 
seq.) and its implementing regulations (40 CFR 1506.6).

Public Availability of Comments

    All comments we receive become part of our administrative record in 
this matter. Requests for copies of comments will be handled in 
accordance with the Freedom of Information Act, Privacy Act, NEPA, and 
Service and Department of the Interior policies and procedures. 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 personal identifying information--may be made 
available to the public at any time. While you may ask us to withhold 
your personal identifying information from public disclosure, we cannot 
guarantee that we will be able to do so.

    Dated: February 14, 2012.
Stephen M. Ricks,
Field Supervisor, Jackson, Mississippi, Field Office, Southeast Region.
[FR Doc. 2012-3880 Filed 2-17-12; 8:45 am]