[Federal Register: October 26, 1999 (Volume 64, Number 206)]
[Page 57631-57633]
From the Federal Register Online via GPO Access [wais.access.gpo.gov]



National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration


Fish and Wildlife Service
[I.D. 101599H]

Availability of an Environmental Impact Statement and Receipt of 
an Application for an Incidental Take Permit for the Crown Pacific, 
Ltd., Hamilton Tree Farm Habitat Conservation Plan, Whatcom and Skagit 
Counties, Washington

AGENCIES: National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS), National Oceanic 
and Atmospheric Administration, Commerce; Fish and Wildlife Service 
(FWS), Interior.

ACTION: Notice of application and availability for public comment.


SUMMARY: This notice advises the public that Crown Pacific, Ltd., has 
submitted an application to FWS and NMFS (together, the Services) for 
an Incidental Take Permits (Permits) pursuant to section 10(a)(1)(B) of 
the Endangered Species Act of 1973, as amended (ESA). As required by 
section 10(a)(2)(B) of the ESA, Crown Pacific has also prepared a 
Habitat Conservation Plan (Plan) designed to minimize and mitigate any 
such take of endangered or threatened species. The Permit application 
is related to forest management and timber harvest, recreational 
activities, installation and operation of communication towers, and 
military training operations, on approximately 84,689 acres of Crown 
Pacific lands located in Whatcom and Skagit counties, Washington. The 
proposed Permits would authorize the take of the following endangered 
or threatened species incidental to otherwise lawful activities: 
northern spotted owl (Strix occidentalis caurina), marbled murrelet 
(Brachyramphus marmoratus marmoratus), bald eagle (Haliaeetus 
leucocephalus), grizzly bear (Ursus arctos), gray wolf (Canis lupus), 
and chinook salmon (Oncorhynchus tshawytscha). Crown Pacific is also 
seeking coverage for 22 currently unlisted species of concern 
(including anadromous and resident fish) under specific provisions of 
the Permits, should these species be listed in the future. One of 
these, the coastal-Puget Sound population of the bull trout (Salvelinus 
confluentus), is currently in the final stages of the listing process. 
A determination will soon be made as to whether the bull trout will be 
listed as threatened. The duration of the proposed Permits and Plan is 
100 years.
    The Permit application includes: (1) the proposed Plan; and, (2) 
the proposed Implementing Agreement. The Services also announce the 
availability of a draft Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) for the 
Permit application.
    This notice is provided pursuant to section 10(a) of the ESA, and 
National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) regulations. The Services are 
furnishing this notice in order to allow other agencies and the public 
an opportunity to review and comment on these documents. All comments 
received will become part of the public record and will be available 
for review pursuant to section 10(c) of the ESA.

DATES: Written comments on the permit application, EIS, Plan, and

[[Page 57632]]

Implementing Agreement must be received from interested parties no 
later than December 27, 1999.

ADDRESSES: Comments and requests for information should be directed to 
Brian Bogaczyk, Project Biologist, FWS, 510 Desmond Drive, SE., Suite 
102, Lacey, Washington, 98503-1273, (telephone: (360)753-5824; 
facsimile: (360)534-9331), and Matt Longenbaugh, Project Biologist, 
NMFS, 510 Desmond Drive, SE., Suite 103, Lacey, Washington, 98503-1273 
(telephone: (360)753-7761; facsimile: (360)753-9517). Comments and 
materials received will also be available for public inspection, by 
appointment, during normal business hours by calling (360)534-9330.
    Requests for documents on CD ROM should be made by calling FWS at 
(360)534-9330. Hard bound copies are also available for viewing, or 
partial or complete duplication, at the following libraries: Sedro-
Woolley Public Library, 802 Ball Street, Sedro Woolley, WA, (360)855-
1166; Bellingham Public Library, Reference Desk, 210 Central Avenue, 
Bellingham, WA, (360)676-6860; Seattle Public Library, Government 
Publications Desk, 1000 4th Avenue, Seattle, WA, (260)386-4636; and, 
Olympia Timberland Library, Reference Desk, 313 8th Avenue SE, Olympia, 
WA, (360)352-0595. The documents are also available electronically on 
the World Wide Web at http://www.r1.fws.gov/.

SUPPLEMENTARY INFORMATION: Section 9 of the ESA and Federal regulations 
prohibit the taking of a species listed as endangered or threatened. 
The term take is defined under the ESA to mean harass, harm, pursue, 
hunt, shoot, wound, kill, trap, capture, or collect, or to attempt to 
engage in any such conduct. Harm has been defined by FWS to include 
``significant habitat modification or degradation where it actually 
kills or injures wildlife by significantly impairing essential 
behavioral patterns, including breeding, feeding, and sheltering.'' 
NMFS' proposed definition of harm includes ``significant habitat 
modification or degradation where it actually kills or injures fish or 
wildlife by significantly impairing essential behavioral patterns, 
including breeding, spawning, rearing, feeding, and sheltering.''
    The Services may issue permits, under limited circumstances, to 
take listed species incidental to, and not the purpose of, otherwise 
lawful activities. FWS regulations governing permits for endangered 
species are promulgated in 50 CFR 17.22; and, regulations governing 
permits for threatened species are promulgated in 50 CFR 17.32. NMFS 
regulations governing permits for threatened and endangered species are 
promulgated at 50 CFR 222.307.


    Crown Pacific, Ltd., owns and manages the Hamilton Tree Farm, 
located in Whatcom and Skagit Counties, Washington. The Tree Farm is 
composed of several parcels, totaling 84,689 acres, and is located 
north and south of State Highway 20, roughly between Sedro-Woolley and 
Marblemount, Washington. Management activities on the tree farm include 
forest management and timber harvest. A portion of the proposed Plan 
area, Arlecho Creek, a 2,246-acre basin, is in the process of being 
transferred to the Nature Conservancy and the Lummi Indian Nation, with 
the understanding that the property will be managed as a natural/
cultural area. The transfer is expected to be completed in late 1999.
    Some forest management and timber harvest activities have the 
potential to impact species subject to protection under the ESA. 
Section 10 of the ESA contains provisions for the issuance of 
Incidental Take Permits (Permits) to non-Federal land owners for the 
take of endangered and threatened species, provided the take is 
incidental to otherwise lawful activities, and will not appreciably 
reduce the likelihood of the survival and recovery of the species in 
the wild. In addition, the applicant must prepare and submit to the 
Services for approval, a Habitat Conservation Plan (Plan) containing a 
strategy for minimizing and mitigating all take associated with the 
proposed activities to the maximum extent practicable. The applicant 
must also ensure that adequate funding for the Plan will be provided.
    Crown Pacific has developed a Plan with technical assistance from 
the Services, to obtain Permits for their activities on the Hamilton 
Tree Farm. Activities proposed for Permit coverage include the 
following: harvest of trees; silvicultural treatments; site 
preparation; tree planting; timberland inventory and monitoring; 
construction, maintenance, and use of logging roads and landings; 
quarrying stone and gravel; communication sites; recreation activities; 
fire prevention and suppression; habitat restoration; use of low-flying 
aircraft; tribal access; and, military training operations. The Permits 
and Plan would also cover certain monitoring activities and related 
scientific experiments in the Plan area. The duration of the proposed 
Permits and Plan is 100 years.
    The Services formally initiated an environmental review of the 
project through a Federal Register notice on August 20, 1998 (63 FR 
44634), which announced a 30-day public scoping period. A second 
Federal Register notice was published following the scoping period on 
February 5, 1999 (64 FR 5775), announcing the decision to prepare an 
EIS. Following this announcement a draft EIS was prepared.
    Under Alternative A, the No Action Alternative, no Permit would be 
issued and take would be avoided for any and all threatened and 
endangered species on the property. Alternative B, the Proposed Action 
Alternative, involves issuing Permits for seven threatened and 
endangered species on the property (bald eagle, marbled murrelet, 
northern spotted owl, grizzly bear, gray wolf, and Puget Sound chinook 
salmon), with provisions for 22 unlisted species. The Plan details 
minimization and mitigation measures for the same six threatened and 
endangered species and 22 unlisted species. Alternative C, the Late-
Successional Dependent Species and Anadromous Fish Alternative, 
involves issuing Permits for northern spotted owl, marbled murrelet, 
and chinook salmon, with provisions for 7 unlisted fish species. The 
Plan would have minimization and mitigation measures for northern 
spotted owl, marbled murrelet, and chinook salmon, and 7 unlisted fish 
    Alternatives considered during scoping but which were not analyzed 
in detail included a Candidate Conservation Agreement (CCA) 
Alternative, and a Northwest Forest Plan (NFP) Alternative. The CCA 
Alternative, would have involved developing and implementing a CCA with 
minimization and mitigation measures for a discreet list of species 
that are candidates for listing as threatened or endangered, or are 
expected to be candidates in the near future (specifically anadromous 
salmonids and bull trout), and take avoidance for any and all 
threatened and endangered species on the property. This alternative was 
not analyzed in detail because Crown Pacific included listed species in 
their proposal, as well as other unlisted species for which listing is 
not anticipated in the near future. This eliminates the implementation 
of a CCA as a management tool, because, by definition, the targets of 
CCAs are proposed and candidate species of fish, wildlife, and plants; 
and species likely to become candidate species in the near future (64 
FR 32706, June 17, 1999). The NFP Alternative, would have involved 
issuing a Permit for all threatened and endangered species that occur 
on the property and developing a Plan with

[[Page 57633]]

mitigation measures similar to those found in the NFP. This alternative 
was not analyzed in detail because it would result in excessive direct 
and indirect costs to Crown Pacific. These excessive costs do not meet 
the purpose in this Federal action, which is to provide protection and 
conservation to listed and proposed species and their habitats to the 
extent intended under 10(a)(1)(B) of the ESA, while allowing Crown 
Pacific to fulfill its forest management and timber harvest mission in 
a practical manner.
    The No Action, Proposed Action, Late-Successional Dependent Species 
and Anadromous Fish alternatives are analyzed in detail in the draft 
EIS. The CCA Alternative and NFP Alternative were dismissed from 
detailed analysis.
    This notice is provided pursuant to section 10(a) of the ESA, and 
NEPA regulations. The Services will evaluate the application, 
associated documents, and comments submitted thereon to determine 
whether the application meets the requirements of the ESA and NEPA. If 
it is determined that the requirements are met, Permits will be issued 
for the incidental take of listed species. The final permit decision 
will be made no sooner than 60 days from the date of this notice.

    Dated: October 8, 1999.
Donald Weathers,
Regional Director, Fish and Wildlife Service, Region 1, Portland, 

    Dated: October 19, 1999.
Wanda L. Cain,
Chief, Endangered Species Division, Office of Protected Resources, 
National Marine Fisheries Service.
[FR Doc. 99-27696 Filed 10-25-99; 8:45 am]
BILLING CODE 3510-22-F, 4310-55-F