[Federal Register Volume 78, Number 245 (Friday, December 20, 2013)]
[Pages 77153-77154]
From the Federal Register Online via the Government Printing Office [www.gpo.gov]
[FR Doc No: 2013-30305]



Fish and Wildlife Service

[FWS-R2-ES-2013-N187; FXES11120200000F2-134-FF02ENEH00]

Environmental Action Statement Screening Form and Proposed 
Amendment to the Candidate Conservation Agreement With Assurances; 
Lesser Prairie Chicken, Oklahoma

AGENCY: Fish and Wildlife Service, Interior.

ACTION: Notice of availability and request for public comment.


SUMMARY: We, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (Service), announce the 
availability of the environmental action statement screening form and 
the draft amendment to the Agricultural Candidate Conservation 
Agreement with Assurances (CCAA) for the lesser prairie chicken 
(Tympanuchus pallidicinctus) (LEPC) in Oklahoma, under the National 
Environmental Policy Act of 1969. The Oklahoma Department of Wildlife 
Conservation (ODWC) (applicant) has applied for an amendment of their 
existing CCAA, with a major amendment to increase enrollment from 
200,000 acres to 400,000 acres by 2037 throughout the 14 Oklahoma 
counties described in the CCAA.

DATES: Comment Period: To ensure consideration of your written 
comments, they must be received on or before close of business (4:30 
p.m. CST) January 21, 2014. Any comments that we receive after the 
closing date may not be considered in the final decisions on these 

ADDRESSES: For where to view documents, see Availability of Documents 

FOR FURTHER INFORMATION CONTACT: Acting Field Supervisor, by U.S. mail 
at U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, 9014 East 21st Street, Tulsa, OK 
74129, or by telephone at 918-581-7458.

    In accordance with the requirements of the National Environmental 
Policy Act of 1969 (NEPA) (42 U.S.C. 4321 et seq.), we advise the 
public that:
    1. We have gathered the information necessary to determine impacts 
in the environmental action statement screening form related to 
potential issuance of an amended enhancement of survival permit to the 
applicant; and
    2. The applicant has developed a draft amendment to the CCAA, which 
doubles the acreage of enrollment on which ODWC could take to implement

[[Page 77154]]

conservation measures for the LEPC by removing threats to the species 
and protecting their habitat to the maximum extent practicable pursuant 
to section 10(a)(1)(A) of the Endangered Species Act of 1973 (Act), as 
amended (16 U.S.C. 1531 et seq.).
    The permitted CCAA is authorized for 25 years in Alfalfa, Beaver, 
Beckham, Cimarron, Custer, Dewey, Ellis, Harper, Major, Roger Mills, 
Texas, Washita, Woods, and Woodward Counties, Oklahoma. This area 
constitutes the CCAA's Planning Area, with Covered Areas being eligible 
on non-Federal lands within the Planning Area that provide suitable 
habitat for LEPC, or have the potential to provide suitable LEPC 
habitat with the implementation of conservation management practices. 
This proposed amendment would double the enrollment cap from 200,000 
acres to 400,000 acres. This would double the conservation program 
currently being implemented on agricultural lands within the historic 
range of the LEPC under the current section 10(a)(1)(A) enhancement of 
survival permit held by ODWC. The CCAA is in addition to a larger 
conservation effort for the LEPC across its range within Texas, 
Oklahoma, Colorado, Kansas, and New Mexico.
    ODWC will enroll participating landowners through issuance of 
Certificates of Inclusion pursuant to the CCAA. Participating 
landowners who are fully implementing the CCAA provisions of the 
enhancement of survival permit will be provided assurances that, should 
the LEPC be listed, the Service will not require them to provide 
additional land, water, or financial resources, nor will there be any 
further restrictions to their land, water, or financial resources than 
those they committed to under the CCAA provisions. The CCAA provisions 
are found in the Code of Federal Regulations (CFR) at 50 CFR 17.22(d) 
and 17.32(d). Furthermore, if the LEPC is listed, participating 
landowners would be provided incidental take authorization under the 
enhancement of survival permit for the level of incidental take on the 
enrolled lands consistent with the activities under the CCAA 
provisions. This amendment would potentially double the amount of the 
incidental take authorization proportionately with the doubling of the 
enrolled conservation acres.


    The LEPC currently occurs in five States: Colorado, Kansas, New 
Mexico, Oklahoma, and Texas. The species inhabits rangelands dominated 
primarily by shinnery oak-bluestem and sand sagebrush-bluestem 
vegetation types. Major factors affecting the status of the LEPC are 
habitat fragmentation, overutilization by domestic livestock, oil and 
gas development, wind energy development, loss of native rangelands to 
cropland conversion, herbicide use, fire suppression, and drought. In 
1998, the Service determined that listing of the LEPC was warranted but 
precluded because of other higher priority species. The December 2008 
Candidate Notice of Review elevated the listing priority of the LEPC 
from an ``8'' to a ``2'' because the overall magnitude of threats to 
the LEPC were increasing and occurring throughout almost all of the 
currently occupied range.
    On January 25, 2013 (77 FR 37917), we issued a final environmental 
assessment (EA), along with the final CCAA and enhancement of survival 
permit. We included public comments and responses associated with the 
draft EA and draft CCAA in an appendix to the final EA. The Service 
worked with the ODWC on the development of the CCAA for the LEPC in the 
State of Oklahoma. The CCAA was initiated in order to facilitate 
conservation and restoration of the LEPC on private and State trust 
lands in Oklahoma. Expected conservation benefits for the LEPC from 
implementation of the conservation measures in this CCAA will be 
recognized through improved population performance. Specifically, this 
will entail expected increases in adult and juvenile survivorship, nest 
success, and recruitment rates. A full discussion of the impacts, both 
positive and negative, can be found in the Final Environmental 
Assessment and Biological/Conference Opinion for the original CCAA 

Proposed Action

    The purpose of the amendment to the CCAA is to double the amount of 
acreage that ODWC can use to enroll participating landowners from 
200,000 to 400,000 acres over the 25 year duration of the CCAA. The 
additional acreage will potentially double the amount of conservation 
for the LEPC by doubling the amount of birds protected on enrolled 
lands. If, on average, LEPC densities are about two birds per square 
mile in good quality habitat, there could be as many as 1,250 LEPCs 
within the targeted enrollment/implementation area of this CCAA and an 
overall population of about 3,125 birds within the entire planning 
area. We have analyzed the effects through reinitiating the original 
Conference Opinion and we have found that the approval and 
implementation of the amended CCAA will extend a landscape-level 
conservation program that will result in increased re-colonization of 
suitable habitats by the LEPC. Furthermore, the conservation measures 
included in the amended CCAA are designed to reduce the major habitat-
related threats to the LEPC in Oklahoma, which is expected to lead to 
increased distribution and abundance of the species in the action area. 
Also, adverse impacts associated with implementation of conservation 
measures under the amended CCAA are expected to be minor and temporary, 
and should be offset and exceeded by beneficial and long-lasting 
effects to the LEPC and its habitat. Although an increase in the number 
of acres enrolled will increase the extent of incidental take of the 
LEPC, this will be offset and exceeded by beneficial effects that will 
also increase under the amended CCAA.

Availability of Documents

    Electronic copies of the proposed CCAA amendment and the 
Environmental Action Statement Screening Form, along with the final 
CCAA and final EA are available on the Service's LEPC Web site, http://www.fws.gov/southwest/es/LPC.html. Alternatively, you may obtain CD-
ROMs with electronic copies of these documents by writing to Acting 
Field Supervisor, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, 9014 East 21st 
Street, Tulsa, OK 74129; calling 918-581-7458; or faxing 918-581-7467. 
Please refer to TE72923A-1 when requesting documents. The proposed 
amendment to the CCAA and the environmental action statement screening 
form are available for public inspection, by appointment only, during 
normal business hours (8 a.m. to 4:30 p.m.) at the Tulsa address listed 
    Persons wishing to review the amended CCAA or Environmental Action 
Statement may obtain a copy by writing to the Regional Director, U.S. 
Fish and Wildlife Service, P.O. Box 1306, Room 6034, Albuquerque, NM 


    We provide this notice under section 10(c) of the Act (16 U.S.C. 
1531 et seq.) and its implementing regulations (50 CFR 17.22) and NEPA 
(42 U.S.C. 4321 et seq.) and its implementing regulations (40 CFR 

Joy E. Nicholopoulos,
Acting Regional Director, Southwest Region, Albuquerque, New Mexico.
[FR Doc. 2013-30305 Filed 12-19-13; 8:45 am]