[Federal Register: December 29, 2000 (Volume 65, Number 251)]
[Page 83074-83076]
From the Federal Register Online via GPO Access [wais.access.gpo.gov]



Fish and Wildlife Service

Receipt of Application for an Incidental Take Permit by Hancock 
Natural Resource Group, Inc. for Silvicultural Activities in Crenshaw 
and Covington Counties, Alabama

AGENCY: Fish and Wildlife Service, Interior.

ACTION: Notice.


    Hancock Natural Resource Group, Inc. (Applicant) has requested an 
incidental take permit (ITP) pursuant to section 10(a)(1)(B) of the 
Endangered Species Act of 1973 (U.S.C. 1531 et seq.), as amended (Act). 
The Applicant anticipates taking the threatened Red hills salamander 
(Phaeognathus hubrichti) over the next 30 years incidental to forest 
management for timber production, road construction, and timber 
harvest. The anticipated take and measures to minimize and mitigate 
these takings will occur on 3,561 acres of the Applicant's properties 
in Crenshaw and Covington counties, Alabama. Absolute levels of 
incidental take can only be estimated based on projected population 
densities in various habitats in relation to proposed activities in 
those habitats. The applicant estimates that up to 400 salamanders may 
be taken. Incidental take will comprise harm resulting from habitat 
modification or direct physical injury or death.
    To minimize and mitigate for taking of salamanders, the Applicant 
will survey by habitat types to classify management units for expected 
salamander density. The intensity of

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silvicultural activities (i.e., harvest rates, site preparation) will 
then be proportionately greater in habitats with little or no 
expectation of salamander occurrence. The best salamander habitats, 
approximately 25 acres, will be left un-harvested. A more detailed 
description of the mitigation and minimization measures to address the 
effects of the Project to the Red hills salamander is provided in the 
Applicant's Habitat Conservation Plan (HCP). These measures are 
outlined in the SUPPLEMENTARY INFORMATION section below. The Service 
has determined that the Applicant's proposal, including the proposed 
mitigation and minimization measures, will individually and 
cumulatively have a minor or negligible effect on the species covered 
in the HCP. Therefore, the ITP is a ``low effect'' project and would 
qualify as a categorical exclusion under the National Environmental 
Policy Act (NEPA), as provided by the Department of Interior Manual 
(516 DM2, Appendix 1 and 516 DM 6, Appendix 1).
    The Service announces the availability of the HCP and our 
determination of Categorical Exclusion for the incidental take 
application. Copies of the HCP and Service supporting documents may be 
obtained by making a request to the Regional Office (see ADDRESSES). 
Requests must be in writing to be processed. This notice is provided 
pursuant to Section 10 of the Act and NEPA regulations (40 CFR 1506.6).
    The Service specifically requests information, views, and opinions 
from the public via this Notice on the federal action, regarding the 
adequacy of the HCP as measured against the Service's ITP issuance 
criteria found in 50 CFR Parts 13 and 17.
    If you wish to comment, you may submit comments by any one of 
several methods. Please reference permit number TE029614-0 in such 
comments. You may mail comments to the Service's Regional Office (see 
ADDRESSES). You may also comment via the internet to 
``david_dell@fws.gov''. Please submit comments over the internet as an 
ASCII file avoiding the use of special characters and any form of 
encryption. Please also include your name and return address in your 
internet message. If you do not receive a confirmation from the Service 
that we have received your internet message, contact us directly at 
either telephone number listed below (see FURTHER INFORMATION). 
Finally, you may hand deliver comments to either Service office listed 
below (see ADDRESSES). Our practice is to make comments, including 
names and home addresses of respondents, available for public review 
during regular business hours. Individual respondents may request that 
we withhold their home address from the administrative record. We will 
honor such requests to the extent allowable by law. There may also be 
other circumstances in which we would withhold from the administrative 
record a respondent's identity, as allowable by law. If you wish us to 
withhold your name and address, you must state this prominently at the 
beginning of your comments. We will not; however, consider anonymous 
comments. We will make all submissions from organizations or 
businesses, and from individuals identifying themselves as 
representatives or officials of organizations or businesses, available 
for public inspection in their entirety.

DATES: Written comments on the permit application, supporting 
documentation, and HCP should be sent to the Service's Regional Office 
(see ADDRESSES) and should be received on or before January 29, 2001.

ADDRESSES: Persons wishing to review the application, supporting 
documentation, and HCP may obtain a copy by writing the Service's 
Southeast Regional Office, Atlanta, Georgia. Documents will also be 
available for public inspection by appointment during normal business 
hours at the Regional Office, 1875 Century Boulevard, Suite 200, 
Atlanta, Georgia 30345 (Attn: Endangered Species Permits), or Field 
Supervisor, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, PO Drawer 1190, Daphne East 
Office Plaza, Suite A, 2001 Highway 98, Daphne, Alabama 36526-6578. 
Written data or comments concerning the application, or HCP should be 
submitted to the Regional Office. Please reference permit number 
TE029614-0 in requests of the documents discussed herein.

Coordinator, (see ADDRESSES above), telephone: 404/679-7313, facsimile: 
404/679-7081; or Ms. Barbara Allen, Fish and Wildlife Biologist, Daphne 
Field Office, Alabama (see ADDRESSES above), telephone: 334/441-5181.

SUPPLEMENTARY INFORMATION: The Red hills salamander is endemic to 
Alabama, and was listed in 1976 as a threatened species due to historic 
silvicultural practices, and habitat loss and fragmentation. Typical 
habitat of the Red hills salamander is moist, steep to moderately steep 
ravine slopes and bluff faces in mature, upland mixed hardwood and pine 
    Of the 3,561 acres that would be covered by the ITP, only an 
estimated 200 acres offer potential habitat for the Red hills 
salamander. The HCP classifies potentially occupied salamander habitat 
into three categories: optimal, moderately suitable, and marginal. 
Optimal habitats are bluffs and ravines with a 27-degree angle slope or 
greater, or other extensive areas of steep slopes that are underlain by 
the Tallahatta geologic formation, and are dominated by deciduous 
trees. No timber harvest will be permitted in optimal habitats. Current 
area estimates are subject to change as additional information is 
obtained, but such habitat comprises an estimated 25 acres.
    Moderately suitable habitats are areas of 18 to 27-degree slope 
within either the Tallahatta or Hatchetigbee geologic formations, and 
with naturally occurring mixed hardwood/pine and pine/hardwood forest 
types. Siltstone outcroppings may or may not be evident. These habitats 
may receive increased levels of selective cutting (followed by natural 
regeneration of tree species characteristic of Red Hills salamander 
habitat), provided total hardwood canopy cover is not reduced to less 
than 65 percent. Moderately suitable habitats comprise an estimated 100 
    Marginally suitable to unsuitable habitats within the Tallahatta or 
Hatchetigbee geologic formations occur immediately adjacent to optimal 
or moderately suitable habitats with naturally occurring mixed 
hardwood/pine or pine hardwood forest types; siltstone may or may not 
be evident. Normal silviculture practices will be done in these areas 
including clearcutting, select tree harvest, chemical and mechanical 
site preparation, planting, and prescribed burning. Estimated 
marginally suitable habitat within the Hancock property covered by the 
ITP is 75 acres.
    Under section 9 of the Act and its implementing regulations, 
``taking'' of endangered and threatened wildlife is prohibited. 
However, the Service, under limited circumstances, may issue permits to 
take such wildlife if the taking is incidental to and not the purpose 
of otherwise lawful activities. The Applicant has prepared an HCP as 
required for the incidental take permit application.
    The biological goal of the Applicant's HCP is long term 
preservation of Red hills salamander population levels on optimal 
habitat, and to maintain a population on moderately suitable habitats 
over the 30-year term of the ITP. Conversion of natural forest to pine 
plantation within a minimum of 50 feet of occupied or potentially 
occupied habitat will be avoided. The following

[[Page 83076]]

management actions will be incorporated to minimize incidental take:
    1. Clearcutting will be avoided on slopes occupied by Red Hills 
    2. Mechanical site preparation will be avoided within occupied 
    3. If an area is select cut, woody litter will be maintained to 
provide some shade, maintain moisture and preserve invertebrate fauna. 
Select cutting that maintains at least two-thirds canopy cover and 
creates minimal surface disturbance may not adversely impact salamander 
    4. If areas above or below slopes occupied by salamanders are 
cleared, a buffer strip of natural vegetation will be left to provide 
shade and allow moisture retention to vegetation on the slope. Size of 
the buffer will vary depending on aspect, but will provide shade at all 
times of the day.
    5. Annual monitoring will be conducted for each habitat class to 
assess the performance of the HCP goals and objectives. Monitoring will 
be conducted between April 1 and October 31. A 5-year comprehensive 
review of monitoring results will be conducted to better determine the 
density threshold below which the species may not be considered to be 
successfully maintained. This report will be submitted by December 31, 
    6. After the first ten years, a comprehensive review of permit 
conditions, HCP implementation, and monitoring results will be 
    7. Existing access roads will be used to the extent practicable, 
and no roads will be constructed through areas of optimal habitat. Any 
new road construction through moderately suitable or marginal habitat 
will be carefully planned so as to cause the least possible damage to 
the habitat and will comply with Alabama's Best Management Practices 
for forestry.
    8. The applicant will conduct or participate in training workshops 
for all its foresters and technicians that work in the plan area. 
Workshops will train employees to recognize Red hills salamander 
habitat, properly establish buffers around and mark timber within 
occupied habitat, and to minimize impacts of machinery. Employees will 
be provided general biological background information, will be 
familiarized with general details of the HCP, and will be required to 
participate in the implementation of the plan.
    As stated above, the Service has made a preliminary determination 
that the issuance of the ITP is not a major Federal action 
significantly affecting the quality of the human environment within the 
meaning of section 102(2)(C) of NEPA. This preliminary information may 
be revised due to public comment received in response to this notice 
and is based on information contained in the HCP. The Service will also 
evaluate whether the issuance of a section 10(a)(1)(B) ITP complies 
with section 7 of the Act by conducting an intra-Service section 7 
consultation. The results of the biological opinion, in combination 
with the above findings, will be used in the final analysis to 
determine whether or not to issue the ITP.

    Dated: December 21, 2000.
H. Dale Hall,
Acting Regional Director.
[FR Doc. 00-33331 Filed 12-28-00; 8:45 am]