[Federal Register: March 21, 2002 (Volume 67, Number 55)]
[Page 13189-13190]
From the Federal Register Online via GPO Access [wais.access.gpo.gov]



Southern Idaho Ground Squirrel Candidate Conservation Agreement 
With Assurances

AGENCY: Fish and Wildlife Service, Interior.

ACTION: Notice of availability.


SUMMARY: Soulen Livestock, Inc. (Soulen Livestock) 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 Southern 
Idaho Ground Squirrel Candidate Conservation Agreement with Assurances 
(Agreement) between Soulen Livestock, the Service, the Idaho Department 
of Fish and Game, and the Idaho Governor's Office of Species 
    Under the proposed Agreement, the parties would implement 
conservation measures for southern Idaho ground squirrels (Spermophilus 
brunneus endemicus) over approximately 43,145 acres of Soulen 
Livestock's land in Washington and Payette Counties, western Idaho. The 
intent of the Agreement is to conserve southern Idaho ground squirrels 
by protecting and enhancing ground squirrel habitat and populations, 
and reintroducing ground squirrels into currently unoccupied suitable 
habitat, in a manner that is consistent with Soulen Livestock's farming 
and ranching operations. 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 April 22, 2002.

ADDRESSES: Comments should be addressed to Dennis Mackey, Project 
Biologist, Fish and Wildlife Service, 1387 S. Vinnell Way, Room 368, 
Boise, Idaho 83709, (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.


    Under a Candidate Conservation Agreement with Assurances, 
participating landowners voluntarily implement conservation activities 
on their property to benefit unlisted species that are proposed or 
candidates for listing under the Endangered Species Act, 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 landowners that they will not be subjected to increased 
property use restrictions, beyond those identified in the agreement, 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 30, 2001, the Service formally identified the southern 
Idaho ground squirrel as a candidate for listing under the Endangered 
Species Act (66 FR 54807). Southern Idaho ground squirrels are 
currently found within an approximately 518,000-acre area comprised of 
lower elevation shrub/steppe habitat in the Weiser River Basin, in 
southwest, Idaho. The species appears to have undergone a substantial 
population decline throughout its range since 1985. Southern Idaho 
ground squirrels are largely dependent on private lands: 85 percent of 
the occupied ground squirrel sites are located on private lands, mostly 
ranches and farms; 12 percent are under federal management by the 
Bureau of Land Management; and 3 percent of the sites are on lands 
managed by the Idaho Department of Lands. Conservation measures 
implemented on private lands are important for the long-term survival 
of the species.
    Landowners may be willing to implement measures that enhance 
populations of sensitive species on their property, but reluctant to do 
so because of potential land-use restrictions that could occur should 
the species eventually be listed under the Endangered Species Act. As a 
result of this potential regulatory concern, Soulen Livestock developed 
the Southern Idaho Ground Squirrel Candidate Conservation Agreement 
with Assurances, in cooperation with the agencies, and is applying to 
the Service for a permit under section 10(a) of the Endangered Species 
Act, authorizing incidental take of southern Idaho ground squirrels.
    Under the proposed Agreement and permit, Soulen Livestock and the 
agencies would implement various conservation measures over the 43,145 
acres of Soulen Livestock's property depending on present and future 
occupancy of sites by southern Idaho ground squirrels and the location 
of ground squirrel reintroduction/translocation sites. The proposed 
conservation measures can be described in three categories: (1) 
Measures to be applied on all 43,145 acres; (2) measures that would 
occur on currently occupied ground squirrel sites (30 acres); and (3) 
measures on 43,115 acres where ground squirrel occupancy and habitat 
suitability is currently unknown. On all 43,145 acres of enrolled 
lands, Soulen Livestock would not authorize the shooting, trapping, or 
poisoning of southern Idaho ground squirrels and would allow agency 
personnel access to these lands to conduct ground squirrel surveys. 
Currently, three sites, covering 30 acres have been identified in the 
site-specific plan as occupied by southern Idaho ground squirrels and 
specific conservation measures have been identified at these sites to 
protect ground squirrels from activities that may have adverse affects 
to individual ground squirrels or their habitat. The ground squirrel 
conservation measures on the 30 acres include: (1) Continue 
reintroduction efforts, (2) monitor ground squirrel populations and 
habitat characteristics to identify habitat enhancement/rehabilitation 
measures; (3) implement habitat enhancement measures such as seeding 
native or non-native vegetation species, fertilizing vegetation, 
prescribed burning, and providing escape cover; (4) minimize direct 
mortality from ground disturbing activities; (5) provide supplemental 
feeding, if necessary; (6) prohibit shooting, trapping, or poisoning of 
ground squirrels; and (7) control Columbian ground squirrels and 
badgers. Columbian ground squirrels compete with southern Idaho ground 
squirrels for food and burrow sites. Badgers can cause severe impacts 
on prey species, especially if they are at critically low numbers. The 

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43,115 acres have not been surveyed for ground squirrel occupancy, and 
no site-specific conservation measures have been identified on these 
lands. On these unsurveyed lands, both individual ground squirrels and 
their habitat will be protected from land use activities that may have 
adverse effects at any sites identified in the future as occupied by 
southern Idaho ground squirrels, or sites identified by the agencies as 
reintroduction/translocation sites. The permit would authorize 
incidental take of southern Idaho ground squirrels as a result of 
Soulen Livestock's land use activities: crop cultivation and 
harvesting, livestock grazing and production, farm equipment operation, 
and recreational activities.
    We provide 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 Soulen Livestock 
for take of southern Idaho ground squirrels 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 period.

    Dated: March 1, 2002.
Rowan W. Gould,
Deputy Regional Director, Fish and Wildlife Service, Portland, Oregon.
[FR Doc. 02-6810 Filed 3-20-02; 8:45 am]