[Federal Register Volume 78, Number 22 (Friday, February 1, 2013)]
[Pages 7445-7447]
From the Federal Register Online via the Government Printing Office [www.gpo.gov]
[FR Doc No: 2013-02256]



Fish and Wildlife Service


Notice of Intent To Prepare a Draft Environmental Impact 
Statement for a General Conservation Plan for the American Burying 
Beetle for Pipelines and Well Field Development in Oklahoma and Texas

AGENCY: Fish and Wildlife Service, Interior.

ACTION: Notice of intent; announcement of meetings; request for 


SUMMARY: We, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (Service), advise the 
public that we intend to prepare a draft environmental impact statement 
(EIS) to evaluate the impacts of, and alternatives to, the proposed 
General Conservation Plan (GCP) for incidental take of the federally 
listed American burying beetle (ABB) resulting from activities 
associated with construction, maintenance, operation, and repair of oil 
and gas pipelines, and related well field activities. Individual oil 
and gas companies would apply for an Endangered Species Act 10(a)(1)(B) 
permit and agree to implement the approved GCP. A GCP is a conservation 
plan suitable for the needs of a local area where the NEPA requirements 
and permit issuance criteria are met. After approval of the GCP, 
individuals apply for a permit for incidental take associated with 
activities covered in the GCP and agree to comply with the terms and 
conditions of the GCP. We notice these permit applications and request 
comments from the public.

DATES: In order to be included in the analysis, all comments must be 
received by March 4, 2013. We will hold two public scoping meetings 
within the 43-county proposed covered area within the ABB's range. 
Exact meeting locations and times will be noticed in local newspapers 
and at the Oklahoma Ecological Services Office Web site, http://www.fws.gov/southwest/es/Oklahoma/, at least 2 weeks prior to each 

ADDRESSES: Please provide comments in writing, by one of the following 
    Email: ABB_GCP@fws.gov; or
    U.S. mail: Field Supervisor, Oklahoma Ecological Services Field 
Office, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, 9014 E. 21st St., Tulsa, OK 
    Please specify that your information request or comments concerns 
the Oil and Gas draft EIS/GCP.

FOR FURTHER INFORMATION CONTACT: Dr. Dixie Porter, by U.S. mail at the 
U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, Oklahoma Ecological Services Field 
Office, 9014 E. 21st St., Tulsa, OK 74129, or by phone at 918-581-7458.

SUPPLEMENTARY INFORMATION: We publish this notice in compliance with 
the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) of 1969, as amended (42 
U.S.C. 4321 et seq.), and its implementing regulations in the Code of 
Federal Regulations (CFR) at 40 CFR 1506.6, and section 10(c) of the 
Endangered Species Act of 1973, as amended (Act; 16 U.S.C. 1531 et 
seq.). We intend to gather the information necessary to prepare an EIS 
to evaluate the impacts of, and alternatives to, the proposed issuance 
of incidental take permits under the Act to applicants who agree to 
implement the GCP, which is also under development. The proposed GCP is 
a habitat conservation plan that will cover take of the ABB that is 
incidental to activities associated with the construction, operation, 
maintenance, and repair of oil and gas pipelines and related well field 
activities, and will include measures necessary to minimize and 
mitigate impacts to covered species and their habitats to the maximum 
extent practicable. All NEPA requirements and permit issuance criteria 
will be met up front; then, after approval of the GCP, companies will 
apply for an incidental take permit pursuant to the GCP.


    Section 9 of the Act prohibits ``taking'' of fish and wildlife 
species listed as endangered under section 4 of the Act. The Act's 
implementing regulations extend, under certain circumstances, the 
prohibition of take to threatened species. Under section 3 of the Act, 
the term ``take'' means ``to harass, harm, pursue, hunt, shoot, wound, 
kill, trap, capture, or collect, or to attempt to engage in any such 
conduct.'' The term ``harm'' is defined by regulation as ``an act which 
actually kills or injures wildlife. Such act may include significant 
habitat modification or degradation where it actually kills or injures 
wildlife by significantly impairing essential behavioral patterns, 
including breeding, feeding, or sheltering'' (50 CFR 17.3). The term 
``harass'' is defined in the regulations as ``an intentional or 
negligent act or omission which creates the likelihood of injury to 
wildlife by annoying it to such an extent as to significantly disrupt 
normal behavioral patterns which include, but are not limited to, 
breeding, feeding, or sheltering'' (50 CFR 17.3).
    Under Section 10(a)(1)(B), the Secretary of the Interior may 
authorize the taking of federally listed species if such taking occurs 
incidental to otherwise legal activities and where a conservation plan 
has been developed that describes: (1) The impact that will result from 
such taking; (2) the steps an applicant will take to minimize and 
mitigate that take to the maximum extent practicable, and the funding 
that will be available to implement such steps; (3) the alternative 
actions to such taking that an applicant considered and the reasons why 
such alternatives are not being utilized; and (4) other measures that 
the Service may require as being necessary or appropriate for the 
purposes of the plan. Issuance criteria for an incidental take permit 

[[Page 7446]]

the Service to find that: (1) The taking will be incidental to 
otherwise lawful activities; (2) an applicant will, to the maximum 
extent practicable, minimize and mitigate the impacts of such taking; 
(3) an applicant has ensured that adequate funding for the plan will be 
provided; (4) the taking will not appreciably reduce the likelihood of 
the survival and recovery of the species in the wild; and (5) the 
measures, if any, we require as necessary or appropriate for the 
purposes of the plan will be met. Regulations governing permits for 
endangered and threatened species are at 50 CFR 17.22 and 17.32, 
    We expect applicants to request permit coverage for a period of 20 

Public Scoping

    A primary purpose of the scoping process is to receive suggestions 
and information on the scope of issues and alternatives to consider 
when drafting the EIS, and to identify, rather than debate, significant 
issues related to the proposed action. In order to ensure that we 
identify a range of issues and alternatives related to the proposed 
action, we invite comments and suggestions from all interested parties. 
We will conduct a review of this project according to the requirements 
of NEPA and its regulations, other relevant Federal laws, regulations, 
policies, and guidance, and our procedures for compliance with 
applicable regulations.
    We will hold two public scoping meetings: One in Tulsa, at the 
Oklahoma State University Tulsa Campus, and one in McAlester, Oklahoma. 
We will provide notices in local newspapers and on the Oklahoma 
Ecological Services Office Web site, http://www.fws.gov/southwest/es/Oklahoma/, with dates, times, and specific locations at least 2 weeks 
prior to each event. Persons needing reasonable accommodations in order 
to attend and participate in a public meeting should contact us at the 
address listed in the ADDRESSES section no later than 1 week before the 
relevant public meeting. Information regarding this proposed action is 
available in alternative formats upon request.
    We will accept oral and written comments at each meeting. You may 
also submit written comments to the Field Supervisor at the email or 
U.S. mail addresses in the ADDRESSES section, above. Once the draft EIS 
and draft GCP are completed, there will be further opportunities for 
public comment on the content of these documents through additional 
public meetings and a 90-day public comment period.


    The proposed action presented in the draft EIS will be compared to 
the No-Action alternative. The No-Action alternative represents 
estimated future conditions without the application for, or issuance 
of, an incidental take permit. No-Action represents the status quo.

No-Action Alternative

    Under the no-action alternative, described operators would comply 
with the Act by avoiding impacts (take) to the ABB where practicable. 
If take cannot be avoided and there is Federal involvement in the 
project (for example a Federal permit such as a Corps of Engineers 404 
Clean Water Act permit, authorization, or funding exists) an operator 
or individual may receive take coverage through a biological opinion 
issued by the Service to the Federal action agency. If there is no 
Federal involvement in the project operators or individuals can apply 
for an incidental take permit from the Service. This approach is more 
time-consuming and less efficient because permits would need to be 
considered and processed one project at a time. This can result in an 
isolated independent mitigation approach.

Proposed Alternative

    The proposed action is issuance of an incidental take permit for 
the covered species during construction, operation, and/or maintenance 
of pipelines or other well field development-related activities. The 
proposed GCP, which must meet the requirements in section 10(a)(2)(A) 
of the Act, would be developed in coordination with the Service and 
implemented by an applicant. This alternative will allow for a 
comprehensive mitigation approach for authorized impacts and result in 
a more efficient and timely permit processing effort for the Service 
and the applicants. Actions covered under the requested incidental take 
permit may include possible take of covered species associated with 
activities including, but not limited to, construction, operation, 
maintenance, repair to pipelines or other well field development 
related activities.
    Forty-three counties are in the proposed permit area, including 
Adair, Atoka, Bryan, Carter, Cherokee, Choctaw, Cleveland, Coal, Craig, 
Creek, Delaware, Garfield, Garvin, Haskell, Hughes, Johnston, Latimer, 
Le Flore, Love, Major, Marshall, Mayes, McClain, McCurtain, McIntosh, 
Muskogee, Nowata, Okfuskee, Okmulgee, Osage, Ottawa, Pawnee, Pittsburg, 
Pontotoc, Pottawatomie, Pushmataha, Rogers, Seminole, Sequoyah, Tulsa, 
Wagoner, and Washington counties in Oklahoma and Lamar and Red River 
counties in Texas. The species covered under the requested incidental 
take permit is the ABB. We will be evaluating whether the covered 
activities will impact other species and whether they should be 
included on the permit or if management practices can be implemented 
that are sufficient to avoid take. These species and their legal status 
     American alligator (Alligator mississippiensis)--
Threatened (Similarity of Appearance)
     Arkansas darter (Etheostoma cragini)--Candidate
     Arkansas River shiner (Notropis girardi)--Threatened, 
Arkansas R. Basin population, with Critical Habitat
     Black-Capped Vireo (Vireo atricapilla)--Endangered
     Gray bat (Myotis grisescens)--Endangered
     Harperella (Ptilimnium nodosum)--Endangered
     Indiana bat (Myotis sodalis)--Endangered
     Least tern (Sterna antillarum)--Endangered, interior 
     Leopard darter (Percina pantherina)--Threatened with 
Critical Habitat
     Neosho madtom (Noturus placidus)--Threatened
     Neosho Mucket (Lampsilis rafinesqueana)--Proposed 
     Ouachita Rock pocketbook (Arkansia wheeleri)--Endangered
     Ozark Big-Eared bat (Corynorhinus townsendii ingens)--
     Ozark cavefish (Amblyopsis rosae)--Threatened
     Piping Plover (Charadrius melodus)--Threatened, except 
Great Lakes watershed population
     Rabbitsfoot (Quadrula cylindrica ssp. cylindrica)--
Proposed Threatened
     Red-Cockaded woodpecker (Picoides borealis)--Endangered
     Scaleshell mussel (Leptodea leptodon)--Endangered
     Sprague's Pipit (Anthus spragueii)--Candidate
     Whooping crane (Grus americana)--Endangered, except in the 
experimental population area
     Winged Mapleleaf (Quadrula fragosa)--Endangered; except 
where listed as experimental populations
    We do not anticipate that covered activities will result in take of 
these species, but we seek comments to help inform our evaluation.
    We will also evaluate whether covered activities are likely to 
impact the unlisted bald eagle (Haliaeetus

[[Page 7447]]

leucocephalus), which is protected under the Bald and Golden Eagle 
Protection Act.

Other Alternatives

    We seek information regarding other reasonable alternatives during 
this scoping period and will evaluate the impacts associated with such 
alternatives in the draft EIS.

Public Availability of Comments

    Written comments we receive become part of the public record 
associated with this action. Before including your address, phone 
number, email address, or other personal identifying information in 
your comment, you should be aware that the 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.

Environmental Analysis

    The Service will conduct an analysis of the impacts to the ABB and 
its habitat, and other resources such as vegetation, wetlands, 
wildlife, geology and soils, air quality, water resources, water 
quality, cultural resources, land use, recreation, water use, local 
economy, climate change, and environmental justice resulting from the 
proposed GCP and other alternatives considered. Following completion of 
the analysis, the Service will publish a notice of availability and a 
request for comments on the draft EIS and the draft GCP. The draft EIS 
and draft GCP are expected to be completed and available to the public 
in January or February, 2013.

    Dated: December 17, 2012.
Joy E. Nicholopoulos,
Acting, Regional Director, Southwest Region, Fish and Wildlife Service.
[FR Doc. 2013-02256 Filed 1-31-13; 8:45 am]