[Federal Register Volume 78, Number 54 (Wednesday, March 20, 2013)]
[Pages 17224-17226]
From the Federal Register Online via the Government Printing Office [www.gpo.gov]
[FR Doc No: 2013-06374]



Fish and Wildlife Service

[FWS-R1-ES-2013-N057; FXES11120100000-134-FF01E00000]

Environmental Impact Statement; Proposed South Puget Sound 
Prairie Habitat Conservation Plan, Thurston County, WA

AGENCY: Fish and Wildlife Service (Service), Interior.

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


SUMMARY: We, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (Service), advise 
interested parties of our intent to conduct public scoping under the 
National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) to gather information to 
prepare a draft Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) related to a 
permit application from Thurston County, Washington, for the incidental 
take of listed species. The permit application would be associated the 
South Puget Sound Prairie Habitat Conservation Plan (Prairie HCP), 
Thurston County, WA.

DATES: A public meeting will be held on April 6, 2013, from 9:30 a.m. 
to 3 p.m. at the Exposition Hall, Thurston County Fairgrounds, 3054 
Carpenter Road, Lacey, WA 98503. To ensure consideration of written 
comments, please send your written comments on or before May 20, 2013.

ADDRESSES: Comments concerning the development of Thurston County's 
Prairie HCP and the preparation of the associated EIS should be 
identified as such and may be submitted by one of the following 
     U.S. mail: Tim Romanski, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, 
Washington Fish and Wildlife Office, 510 Desmond Drive SE., Suite 102, 
Lacey, WA 98503-1263.
     Email: WFWOComments@fws.gov. Include ``Thurston County 
Prairie HCP--EIS'' in the subject line of the message.
     Facsimile: (360) 753-9518.
     In-Person: Written comments will be accepted at the public 
meeting on April 6, 2013, or can be dropped off during regular business 
hours at the above address.

FOR FURTHER INFORMATION CONTACT: Tim Romanski, U.S. Fish and Wildlife 
Service at address under ADDRESSES, above; by email at Tim_Romanski@fws.gov; or by telephone at (360) 753-5823.


Reasonable Accommodation

    Persons needing reasonable accommodations to attend and participate 
in the public meeting should contact Tim Romanski (see FOR FURTHER 
INFORMATION CONTACT). To allow sufficient time to process requests, 
please call no later than March 31, 2013. Information regarding the 
applicant's proposed action is available in alternative formats upon 


    Section 9 of the Endangered Species Act (Act) (16 U.S.C. 1531 et 
seq.) and our implementing regulations in the Code of Federal 
Regulations (CFR) at 50 CFR part 17 prohibit the ``take'' of fish or 
wildlife species listed as endangered or threatened. Take of listed 
fish or wildlife is defined under the Act as ``to

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harass, harm, pursue, hunt, shoot, wound, kill, trap, capture, or 
collect, or to attempt to engage in any such conduct'' (16 U.S.C. 
1532). 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). The 
term ``harm'' is defined in the regulations 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, and sheltering'' (50 CFR 17.3).
    Under limited circumstances, we issue permits to authorize 
incidental take--i.e., take that is incidental to, and not the purpose 
of, the carrying out of an otherwise lawful activity. Regulations 
governing incidental take permits for threatened and endangered species 
are at 50 CFR 17.32 and 17.22, respectively. In addition to meeting 
other criteria, an incidental take permit must not jeopardize the 
continued existence of federally listed threatened or endangered 
    NEPA (42 U.S.C. 4321 et seq.) requires that Federal agencies 
conduct an environmental analysis of their proposed actions to 
determine if the actions may significantly affect the human 
environment. Under NEPA, a reasonable range of alternatives to a 
proposed project is developed and considered in the Service's 
environmental review. Alternatives considered for analysis in an EIS 
for an HCP may include: variations in the scope of covered activities; 
variations in the location, amount, and type of conservation; 
variations in permit duration; or a combination of these elements.


    South Puget Sound prairies and oak woodlands are among the rarest 
habitats in Washington. Today, only about 10 percent of the spatial 
extent of the original South Puget Sound Prairies remains. Less than 3 
percent of that is considered high-quality prairie habitat. The decline 
in the quantity and quality of prairie habitat in western Washington 
has resulted in imperiled populations of many prairie-dependent 
species. Land development and other incompatible uses are the primary 
threats to prairies and their associated species.
    Thurston County is located at the southern end of Puget Sound and 
has a total population of approximately 257,000 people. As one of the 
fastest growing regions in the State of Washington, Thurston County's 
population grew by approximately 50,000 (24 percent) between the year 
2000 and the year 2012, and is expected to grow by over 138,000 by the 
year 2040. A sizable portion of South Puget Sound Prairie habitat is 
located in the urban-rural interface and in the less densely populated 
southern portion of the county. Based on current zoning and land use 
regulations, future development in the county is likely to occur on 
lands with prairie soils and habitat suitable for rare prairie species 
protection or restoration.
    Washington State's Growth Management Act requires counties to 
protect several types of ``critical areas,'' including important fish 
and wildlife habitats such as prairies and oak woodlands. Thurston 
County recently updated and approved its Critical Areas Ordinance for 
the protection of South Puget Sound prairies and oak woodlands. If the 
South Puget Sound Prairie HCP is approved, this ordinance will be an 
important basis for implementing the HCP.
    The Prairie HCP goals are to avoid and minimize incidental take of 
the covered species associated with Thurston County's activities in the 
county and urban growth areas, and to mitigate the effects of 
unavoidable take, primarily by creating conserved habitat areas in 
Thurston County where intact prairie habitat exists. The Prairie HCP 
would provide a county-wide permitting approach for Thurston County and 
those who require permits from Thurston County to develop lands in the 
county and urban growth areas. The proposed term for the Prairie HCP 
and permit is from 30 to 50 years.

Covered Activities

    Thurston County is seeking incidental take coverage for activities 
that it conducts, permits, or otherwise authorizes. The proposed 
covered activities may include, but are not limited to: planning and 
permitting of residential and agricultural structures and facilities on 
existing legal lots; permits for private and new subdivision road 
construction and maintenance; permits for work in right-of-ways; 
construction and maintenance of county roads, bridges, and right-of-
ways; construction and maintenance of county-owned buildings and other 
administrative facilities; construction and maintenance of county parks 
and historical cemeteries including roads, trails, vegetation 
management, structures, recreational activities, scientific research; 
construction and operation of solid waste facilities; permitting and 
monitoring of wells, septic systems, and decommissioning of home oil 
tanks; maintenance and monitoring of water resources and associated 
facilities; construction, installation, extension, and maintenance of 
surface-water intake facilities, pumping plants, well houses, water 
treatment facilities, and water supply pipelines; emergency response, 
cleanup, and restoration associated with natural disasters; habitat 
restoration activities on county-owned or controlled land, the 
Voluntary Stewardship Program for agricultural activities in habitat 
areas, and all habitat enhancement activities associated with 
implementation of the HCP.

Covered Species

    Thurston County is proposing to seek incidental take coverage for 
two federally listed species, three species proposed to be federally 
listed, one candidate species, and 12 non-listed species. These species 
are described in more detail in the following paragraphs.
    Golden paintbrush (Castilleja levisecta) is a native forb that was 
once found on northwest prairie grasslands from British Columbia to the 
Willamette Valley of Oregon. Golden paintbrush was federally listed as 
threatened under the Endangered Species Act on June 11, 1997 (62 FR 
31740). This flowering plant is known to exist in only 11 locations, 
including one population found on a South Puget Sound Prairie in 
Thurston County.
    Water howellia (Howellia aquatilis) is a winter annual aquatic 
plant that grows in areas that were once associated with glacial 
potholes and former river oxbows that flood in the spring. Water 
howellia (Howellia aquatilis) was federally listed as threatened on 
July 14, 1993 (59 FR 35860). This flowering plant is currently known 
from California, Idaho, Montana, and Washington, and was historically 
found in Oregon.
    Taylor's checkerspot (Euphydryas editha taylori) is a native 
butterfly that was once widespread throughout prairies in association 
with golden paintbrush. Taylor's checkerspot was proposed to be 
federally listed as an endangered species and designation of critical 
habitat was proposed on October 11, 2012 (77 FR 61937). This species is 
already classified as endangered by the State of Washington. In south 
Puget Sound, this species is found at only two locations: one where the 
butterfly naturally occurs, and the other where it has been 
reintroduced. Both locations lie within the south Puget Sound prairie

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landscape. Reintroductions of this species are being undertaken on 
lands already conserved.
    Streaked horned lark (Eremophila alpestris strigata) is a native 
bird found in prairies, grasslands, and other sparsely vegetated areas. 
This species was proposed to be federally listed as a threatened 
species and designation of critical habitat was proposed on October 11, 
2012 (77 FR 61937). Once distributed from British Columbia to southern 
Oregon, its range has retracted considerably. Within Thurston County 
this species is found at only few locations. The northernmost known 
population occurs on Joint Base Lewis-McChord.
    The Mazama pocket gopher (Thomomys mazama), a native mammal of 
Thurston County, occurs on prairie habitat and prairie soils. In the 
south Puget Sound area, two of nine subpopulations of Mazama pocket 
gopher have become extinct since the 1940s. Four subspecies of the 
gopher were proposed to be federally listed as threatened and 
designation of critical habitat was proposed on December 11, 2012 (77 
FR 77370).
    The county also proposes to cover the Oregon spotted frog (Rana 
pretiosa), which was designated a candidate species on September 19, 
1997 (62 FR 49402), and the following non-listed species: western gray 
squirrel (Sciurus griseus), Oregon vesper sparrow (Pooecetes 
graminesu), slender-billed white-breasted nuthatch (Sitta carolinensis 
aculeate), western pond turtle (Clemmys marmorata affinus), western 
toad (Bufo boreas), mardon skipper (Polites mardon), Puget blue 
butterfly (Icaricia icarioides blackmorei), valley silverspot butterfly 
(Speyeria zerene), white-top aster (Aster curtus), rose checker mallow 
(Sidalcea malviflora virgata), small-flowered trillium (Trillium 
parviflorum), and Puget balsamroot (Balsamorhiza deltoidea).

Public Scoping

    The primary purpose of the scoping process is for the public to 
assist the Service and Thurston County in developing a draft EIS by 
identifying important issues and alternatives related to the 
applicant's proposed action. The scoping meeting will include 
presentations by the Service and Thurston County, followed by informal 
questions and discussions. Written comments from all interested parties 
are welcome to ensure that a full range of issues and alternatives 
related to the proposed permit request is identified.
    The Service requests that comments be specific. In particular, we 
request information regarding management issues and goals to be 
considered in the development of the HCP; existing environmental 
conditions in Thurston County; other plans or projects that might be 
relevant to this proposed project; permit duration; areas and specific 
landforms that should or should not be covered; species that should or 
should not be covered; covered activities, including potential 
avoidance, minimization, and mitigation measures; monitoring and 
adaptive management provisions; and funding suggestions.
    We will accept written comments at the public meeting. You may also 
submit written comments to the Service at our U.S. mail address, by 
email, or by facsimile (see ADDRESSES section above). Once the draft 
EIS and draft HCP are prepared, there will be further opportunity for 
public comment on the content of these documents through an additional 
90-day public comment period.

Public Availability of Comments

    Comments and materials we receive, as well as supporting 
documentation we use in preparing the EIS under NEPA, will become part 
of the public record and will be available for public inspection by 
appointment, during regular business hours, at the Service's Washington 
Fish and Wildlife Office (see ADDRESSESS). Before including your 
address, phone number, email address, or other personal identifying 
information in your comment(s), you should be aware that your entire 
comment(s)--including your personal identifying information--may be 
made publicly available at any time. While you can ask us in your 
comment(s) to withhold your personal identifying information from 
public review, we cannot guarantee that we will be able to do so.


    The environmental review of this project will be conducted in 
accordance with the requirements of the NEPA of 1969, as amended (42 
U.S.C. 4321 et seq.), Council on Environmental Quality Regulations (40 
CFR parts 1500-1508), other applicable Federal laws and regulations, 
and applicable policies and procedures of the Service. This notice is 
being furnished in accordance with 40 CFR 1501.7 of the NEPA 
regulations to obtain suggestions and information from other agencies 
and the public on the scope of issues and alternatives to be addressed 
in the EIS.

    Dated: March 5, 2013.
Richard R. Hannan,
Deputy Regional Director, Pacific Region, U.S. Fish and Wildlife 
Service, Portland, Oregon.
[FR Doc. 2013-06374 Filed 3-19-13; 8:45 am]