[Federal Register Volume 78, Number 190 (Tuesday, October 1, 2013)]
[Pages 60307-60309]
From the Federal Register Online via the Government Printing Office [www.gpo.gov]
[FR Doc No: 2013-23871]



Fish and Wildlife Service

[FWS-R4-ES-2013-N205; FXES11150400000F4-123-FF04E00000]

Spring Pygmy Sunfish Candidate Conservation Agreement With 
Assurances; Receipt of Applications for Enhancement of Survival 
Permits; 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 
applications from Mr. Albert C. McDonald of Greenbriar Enterprises LLC 
(applicant McDonald Farm) and Ms. Katherine H. Garrett of Greenbrier 
Enterprises LLC (applicant Horton Farm) (collectively, applicants) for 
enhancement of survival permits (permit or permits) under the 
Endangered Species Act of 1973, as amended (Act). Each permit 
application includes a proposed candidate conservation agreement with 
assurances (CCAA) between the applicant and the Service as parties and 
the Land Trust of North Alabama as a cooperator for the conservation of 
the spring pygmy sunfish. Each Applicant is a limited liability 
company, created and existing under the laws of the State of Alabama. 
The CCAAs would be implemented at the Beaverdam Spring Complex within 
Limestone County, Alabama.
    We have made a preliminary determination that each permit 
application, including the proposed CCAA, is eligible for categorical 
exclusion under the National Environmental Policy Act of 1969 (NEPA). 
The basis for this preliminary determination is contained in the draft 
environmental action statement (EAS) prepared by the Service on each 
application. We are accepting comments on each permit application and 
the associated proposed CCAA, as well as on the draft EAS.

DATES: We must receive comments no later than October 31, 2013.

ADDRESSES: Persons wishing to review either or both applications, 
including the draft CCAA, and the draft EAS may obtain copies upon 
request to Daniel Drennen, Mississippi Field Office, by phone at 601-
321-1127, or via mail or email (see below). The applications 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 either or both applications, proposed CCAAs, 
and draft EASs should be submitted in writing, by one of the following 
    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.
    When submitting comments, please specify the application or 
applications on which you are commenting. Please refer to Permit number 
TE-155500B-0 when commenting on the McDonald Farm application, and to 
Permit number TE-15501B-0 for comments on the Horton Farm application.

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 applications, including 
the draft CCAAs, and the associated EASs. We specifically request 
information, views, and opinions from the public on the proposed 
Federal actions of issuing each permit. Further, we solicit information 
regarding the adequacy of each 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 


    Private and other non-Federal property owners are encouraged to 
enter into CCAAs, in which they voluntarily undertake management 
activities and conservation efforts on their properties to enhance, 
restore, or maintain habitat

[[Page 60308]]

benefiting species that are proposed for listing under the Act, 
candidates for listing, or species that may become candidates or 
proposed for listing. Via the CCAAs and their associated permits, the 
Service provides assurances to property owners that they will not be 
subjected to increased land use restrictions if the covered species 
becomes listed under the Act in the future, provided certain conditions 
are met. The property owners also are assured that, provided certain 
conditions are met, the Service would not require additional 
conservation measures or commitment of additional land, water, or 
resource use restrictions beyond the level obligated in their CCAAs 
agreement, without the property owner's consent. 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 32726; June 17, 1999).
    The conservation of the spring pygmy sunfish is of concern to the 
Service, other biologists, and the property owners whose lands 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 the species occupies 5.9 river miles (mi) (9.5 
river kilometers) and 1,435 acres (580.6 hectares) 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 of the species may be warranted, and announced the initiation 
of a formal status review. On October 2, 2012, the Service published a 
12-month finding/proposed rule to list the species as threatened and to 
designate critical habitat (77 FR 60180) and opened a 60-day comment 
period that ended on December 2, 2012. On April 29, 2013, the Service 
re-opened the comment period for 30 days to allow public comment on the 
draft economic analysis (DEA) and any other aspect of the proposed 
rule. The Service is currently in the process of making its final 
listing/critical habitat determination, and anticipates publication of 
a decision in October 2013.
    The areas to be covered under the proposed CCAAs total 
approximately 272 acres on the McDonald Farm and approximately 440 
acres on the Horton Farm within the Beaverdam Springs complex in 
Limestone County, Alabama. Each proposed CCAA represents a significant 
milestone in the cooperative conservation efforts for the spring pygmy 
sunfish, and 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.
    Each applicant would agree in its CCAA 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 specified covered activities if the species were 
listed under the Act in the future. Conservation measures to be 
implemented by the applicants include: (1) Maintaining up to a 100-foot 
vegetated buffer zone around Beaverdam Creek; (2) limiting cattle 
access to Beaverdam Creek and the buffer zone; (3) limiting surface and 
groundwater extraction; 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.
    The Land Trust of North Alabama, as a cooperator to each CCAA, 
would agree: (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 
resources for reporting and monitoring activities.
    The Service would agree to authorize each applicant to engage in 
incidental take of the spring pygmy sunfish consistent with its 
proposed CCAA and to provide technical assistance, including management 
    The term of each proposed CCAA and associated enhancement of 
survival permit is 25 years.
    When determining whether to issue the permits, we will consider a 
number of factors and information sources, including the administrative 
record on each application, any public comments we receive, and the 
application requirements and issuance criteria for CCAAs set forth in 
50 CFR 17.22(d) and 17.32(d). We will also evaluate whether issuance of 
each permit complies with section 7 of the Act by conducting an intra-
Service consultation. Our decision to issue a permit will be based on 
the results of this consultation, as well as on the above findings, our 
regulations, and public comments.
    We will evaluate each permit application, proposed CCAA, EAS, 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 as to an application, we will enter into the CCAA 
and issue the permit to the applicant for take of the spring pygmy 
sunfish in accordance with the terms of its CCAA. We will not make a 
final decision on either 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 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

[[Page 60309]]

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: September 25, 2013.
Stephen M. Ricks,
Field Supervisor, Jackson, Mississippi, Field Office, Southeast Region.
[FR Doc. 2013-23871 Filed 9-30-13; 8:45 am]