[Federal Register: August 2, 2000 (Volume 65, Number 149)]
[Page 47513-47514]
From the Federal Register Online via GPO Access [wais.access.gpo.gov]



Fish and Wildlife Service

Availability of an Environmental Assessment and Receipt of an 
Application for a Permit to Enhance the Survival of the Columbian 
Sharp-tailed Grouse in Wallowa County, Oregon Through a Candidate 
Conservation Agreement With Assurances

AGENCY: Fish and Wildlife Service, Interior.

ACTION: Notice of availability.


SUMMARY: The Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife (ODFW) has applied 
to the Fish and Wildlife Service (Service) for an enhancement of 
survival permit pursuant to section 10(a)(1)(A) of the Endangered 
Species Act of 1973, as amended. The permit application includes a 
proposed Candidate Conservation Agreement with Assurances (Agreement) 
between the ODFW and the Service. The Agreement and permit application 
are available for public comment.
    The purpose of the Agreement is for the ODFW and the Service to 
implement conservation measures for the Columbian sharp-tailed grouse 
(Tympanuchus phasianellus) in Wallowa County, Oregon, in support of 
ODFW's on-going efforts to reintroduce this species to areas that it 

[[Page 47514]]

occupied. The conservation measures would be implemented by the ODFW, 
Service, and by Participating Landowners, and would generally consist 
of continued implementation of ODFW's Columbian sharp-tailed grouse 
reintroduction program, and protection and enhancement of sharp-tailed 
grouse habitat. Consistent with the Service's Candidate Conservation 
Agreement with Assurances Final Policy, the Agreement is intended to 
facilitate the conservation of Columbian sharp-tailed grouse by giving 
the State of Oregon and cooperating private landowners incentives to 
implement conservation measures. Participating Landowners would receive 
regulatory certainty concerning land use restrictions that might 
otherwise apply should the Columbian sharp-tailed grouse become listed 
under the Endangered Species Act. Participating Landowners, with 
property in an approximately 161,000-acre area, could sign up under the 
Agreement and the associated permit through a Certificate of Inclusion. 
The proposed term of the Agreement and the permit is 20 years. The 
Service has prepared an Environmental Assessment for approval of the 
Agreement and issuance of the permit.
    We request comments from the public on the permit application, 
Agreement, and the Environmental Assessment. All comments we receive, 
including names and addresses, will become part of the administrative 
record and may be released to the public.

DATES: Written comments should be received on or before September 1, 

ADDRESSES: Comments should be addressed to Dennis Mackey, Project 
Biologist, Fish and Wildlife Service, 1387 S. Vinnell Way, Room 368, 
Boise, Idaho 83709 (telephone: 208/378-5267; facsimile: 208/378-5262).

FOR FURTHER INFORMATION CONTACT: Dennis Mackey at the above address or 
telephone 208/378-5267.


Document Availability

    You may obtain copies of the documents for review by contacting the 
individual named above. You also may make an appointment to view the 
documents at the above address during normal business hours. The 
documents are also available electronically on the World Wide Web at 


    Under a Candidate Conservation Agreement with Assurances, 
participating landowners voluntarily implement conservation activities 
on their property to benefit species that are proposed for listing 
under the Endangered Species Act, candidate species, or other sensitive 
species. Candidate Conservation Agreements with Assurances encourage 
private and other non-Federal property owners to implement conservation 
efforts and reduce threats to unlisted species by assuring them they 
will not be subjected to increased property use restrictions if the 
species is listed in the future under the Endangered Species Act. 
Application requirements and issuance criteria for enhancement of 
survival permits through Candidate Conservation Agreements with 
Assurances are found in 50 CFR 17.22(d) and 17.32(d).
    On October 26, 1999, the Service found that listing the Columbian 
sharp-tailed grouse under the Endangered Species Act may be warranted, 
and initiated a review of the species' status. The Columbian sharp-
tailed grouse was extirpated from Oregon by the 1960's. The species 
persisted in Wallowa County until the late 1940's, and the last 
Columbian sharp-tails probably occurred in Baker County in northeast 
Oregon. Reintroduction of the Columbian sharp-tailed grouse in Oregon 
began in the spring of 1991. From 1991 through 1997, ODFW released a 
total of 179 Columbian sharp-tailed grouse in Wallowa County. Currently 
all known Columbian sharp-tailed grouse occur on private land. To date, 
landowners have been supportive of the Columbian sharp-tailed grouse 
reintroduction program, have cooperated with ODFW, and are providing 
habitat to support the birds. The ODFW is concerned that reintroduction 
efforts could result in land-use restrictions on cooperating landowners 
if this species is listed under the Endangered Species Act. Should this 
happen, landowners would have a disincentive to cooperate in future 
reintroduction efforts or to provide suitable grouse habitat. As a 
result of this potential regulatory concern of landowners, ODFW has 
developed a Candidate Conservation Agreement with Assurances for the 
Columbian sharp-tailed grouse in cooperation with the Service, and has 
applied to the Service for a permit under section 10(a) of the 
Endangered Species Act, which would authorize future incidental take of 
the birds by cooperating landowners.
    Under the Agreement and permit, Participating Landowners would 
provide certain Columbian sharp-tailed grouse habitat protection or 
enhancement measures on their lands. Protection and enhancement 
measures will be directed towards sharp-tailed grouse lek, nest, roost, 
and/or winter habitat. If the Columbian sharp-tailed grouse is listed 
under the Endangered Species Act, and after a Participating Landowner 
has provided the agreed upon habitat conditions for the specified 
period of time, the permit would authorize incidental take of Columbian 
sharp-tailed grouse as a result of the landowner's agricultural-related 
activities: crop cultivation and harvesting, livestock grazing, and 
farm equipment operation.
    We are providing this notice pursuant to section 10(c) of the 
Endangered Species Act and implementing regulations for the National 
Environmental Policy Act (40 CFR 1506.6). We will evaluate the permit 
application, associated documents, and comments submitted thereon to 
determine whether the permit application meets the requirements of 
section 10(a) of the Endangered Species Act and National Environmental 
Policy Act regulations. If we determine that the requirements are met, 
we will sign the Agreement and issue an enhancement of survival permit 
under section 10(a)(1)(A) of the Endangered Species Act to ODFW for 
take of Columbian sharp-tailed grouse incidental to otherwise lawful 
activities in accordance with the terms of the Agreement. We will not 
make our final decision until after the end of the 30-day comment 
period and will fully consider all comments received during the comment 

    Dated: July 14, 1999.
Rowan W. Gould,
Deputy Regional Director, Fish and Wildlife Service, Portland, Oregon.
[FR Doc. 00-19469 Filed 8-1-00; 8:45 am]