[Federal Register: July 20, 2000 (Volume 65, Number 140)]
[Page 45038-45039]
From the Federal Register Online via GPO Access [wais.access.gpo.gov]

[[Page 45038]]



National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration


Fish and Wildlife Service

[I.D. 063000C]

Availability of a Final Environmental Impact Statement for the 
Proposed Issuance of Incidental Take Permits to Simpson Timber Company, 
Northwest Operations, Thurston, Mason, and Grays Harbor Counties, 

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

ACTION: Notice of availability of a final environmental impact 


SUMMARY: This notice announces the availability of a Final 
Environmental Impact Statement (Statement) for public review. The 
Statement addresses the proposed issuance of Incidental Take Permits 
(Permits) to Simpson Timber Company, Northwest Operations (Simpson), 
for forest management and timber harvest on their lands in Thurston, 
Mason, and Grays Harbor Counties, Washington. Simpson submitted 
applications on September 29, 1999, to the Fish and Wildlife Service 
and the National Marine Fisheries Service (together, the Services) for 
Permits pursuant to the Endangered Species Act of 1973, as amended 
(Act). The proposed Permits would authorize take of the following 
endangered or threatened species incidental to otherwise lawful 
management activities: marbled murrelet (Brachyramphus marmoratus 
marmoratus), bald eagle (Haliaeetus leucocephalus), Puget Sound chinook 
salmon (Oncorhynchus tshawytscha), Hood Canal summer run chum salmon 
(Oncorhynchus keta), and bull trout (Salvelinus confluentus). Simpson 
is also seeking coverage for 47 currently unlisted species under 
specific provisions of the Permits, should these species be listed in 
the future. The duration of the proposed Permits is 50 years. This 
notice is provided pursuant to the Act, and National Environmental 
Policy Act regulations.

ADDRESSES: Requests for the documents should be made by calling the 
U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service at (360)534-9330. Copies are also 
available for viewing, or partial or complete duplication, at the 
following libraries: Olympia Timberland Library, Reference Desk, 313 
8<SUP>th</SUP> Avenue SE, Olympia, WA, (360)352-0595; William G. Reed 
Library, Reference Desk, 710 West Alder Street, Shelton, WA, (360)426-
1362; Hoodsport Timberland Library, 40 North Schoolhouse Hill Road, 
Hoodsport, WA, (360)877-9339; Elma Timberland Library, Information 
Desk, 118 North 1<SUP>st</SUP> Street, Elma, WA, (360)482-3737; W.H. 
Abel Public Library, Information Desk, 125 Main Street South, 
Montesano, WA, (360)249-4211; and, Aberdeen Timberland Library, 
Reference Desk, 121 East Market Street, Aberdeen, WA, (360)533-2360.

SUPPLEMENTARY INFORMATION: Section 9 of the Act and Federal regulations 
prohibit the ``taking'' of a species listed as endangered or 
threatened. The term take is defined under the Act to mean harass, 
harm, pursue, hunt, shoot, wound, kill, trap, capture, or collect, or 
to attempt to engage in any such conduct. Harm is defined 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.
    The Services may issue permits, under limited circumstances, to 
take listed species incidental to, and not the purpose of, otherwise 
lawful activities. U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service 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. National Marine Fisheries Service regulations governing 
permits for threatened and endangered species are promulgated at 50 CFR 
222.307. A permit decision will occur, and a Record of Decision will be 
published, no sooner than 30 days from this notice.


    Simpson owns and manages approximately 261,575 acres of commercial 
timberland in Thurston, Mason and Grays Harbor counties, Washington. 
These properties are located from just south of Highway 8, north into 
the southern foothills of the Olympic Mountains, and west across the 
Wynoochee River valley to the City of Aberdeen's Wishkah watershed. 
Management activities on the tree farm include forest management and 
timber harvest.
    Some forest management and timber harvest activities have the 
potential to impact species subject to protection under the Act. 
Section 10 of the Act contains provisions for the issuance of 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 
landowner or permit 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.
    Simpson has developed a Plan with technical assistance from the 
Services, to obtain Permits for their activities on the subject lands. 
Activities proposed for this Permit include the following: all aspects 
of mechanized timber harvest, log transportation, road construction, 
road maintenance and abandonment, site preparation, tree planting, 
fertilization, silvicultural thinning, experimental silviculture, 
controlled burns, wild fire suppression, stream restoration, and the 
management, harvest, and sale of minor forest products. 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 50 years.
    As an additional measure, Simpson worked with the Environmental 
Protection Agency and the Washington Department of Ecology to prepare a 
Total Maximum Daily Load (TMDL) for heat energy to streams. The TMDL 
was developed to address general and specific water quality concerns 
within the Action Area, to recognize efforts to meet expectations under 
the Clean Water Act for protection of beneficial uses, and to provide 
an additional level of technical rigor that increases the Services 
assurances about water quality for covered species. The TMDL addresses 
heat energy delivery to waters in the Plan Area, employing sediment as 
an ``other measure as appropriate'' along with shade to assess the 
effectiveness of land management activities with respect to water 
quality. Both heat energy and sediment are water quality parameters 
that affect aquatic life, including salmon and other fishes. Although 
neither the Plan or TMDL are legally dependant on the other, much of 
the information and analysis developed for the preparation of the Plan 
was used in developing the TMDL. The primary link between the Plan and 
TMDL is that sediment and heat load allocations will serve as 
benchmarks to assess attainment and progress towards water quality in 
the adaptive management program set forth

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in the Plan. The TMDL Technical Assessment Report is included as an 
appendix to the Plan.
    The Services formally initiated an environmental review of the 
project through a Notice of Intent to prepare a Statement in the 
Federal Register on February 9, 1999 (64 FR 6325). This notice also 
announced a 30-day public scoping period, during which other agencies, 
tribes, and the public were invited to provide comments and suggestions 
regarding issues and alternatives to be included in the Statement. A 
draft Statement was subsequently produced and made available for a 62-
day public review period on October 22, 1999 (64 FR 57630). Comments 
received on the draft Statement and responses to those comments are 
included in the final Statement.
    The final Statement fully analyzes a No Action alternative, the 
Proposed Action, a Forests and Fish Report Alternative, and a Modified 
Northwest Forest Plan Alternative. Under the No Action Alternative, 
incidental take permits would not be issued and Simpson would continue 
a forest management program which avoids take of federally listed 
species. Under the Forests and Fish Report Alternative incidental take 
permits would not be issued and Simpson would conduct forest management 
according to the proposed revisions to the Washington State Forest 
Practices Act, and avoid take of federally listed species. Under the 
Proposed Action, the Services would issue Incidental Take Permits and 
Simpson would implement their proposed Plan on 261,575 acres of 
Simpson's Washington timberlands. Under a Modified Northwest Forest 
Plan Alternative, the Services would issue Incidental Take Permits, and 
Simpson would implement a Plan with riparian conservation measures 
providing protective buffers approximately mid-way between the buffers 
provided by the Northwest Forest Plan and the Proposed Action. Current 
Washington Forest Practices would be applied where Northwest Forest 
Plan guidelines are not available.

    Dated: June 27, 2000.
Don Weathers,
Acting Regional Director, Fish and Wildlife Service, Region 1, 
Portland, Oregon.

    Dated: July 14, 2000.
Wanda L. Cain,
Chief, Endangered Species Division, Office of Protected Resources, 
National Marine Fisheries Service.
[FR Doc. 00-18418 Filed 7-19-00; 8:45 am]
BILLING CODE 3510-22-F, 4310-55-F