[Federal Register: May 1, 2003 (Volume 68, Number 84)]
[Page 23318-23319]
From the Federal Register Online via GPO Access [wais.access.gpo.gov]



Fish and Wildlife Service

Receipt of an Application for an Incidental Take Permit for 
Silvicultural Activities, Williamsburg County, SC

AGENCY: Fish and Wildlife Service, Interior.

ACTION: Notice.


SUMMARY: Mr. Ben McCutcheon (Applicant) has applied for an incidental 
take permit (ITP) from the Fish and Wildlife Service (Service) pursuant 
to Section 10(a)(1)(B) of the Endangered Species Act of 1973 (16 U.S.C. 
1531 et seq.), as amended. The permit would allow take of one group of 
red-cockaded woodpecker (Picoides borealis), a federally listed, 
endangered species, incidental to silvicultural activities on the 
Applicant's property in Williamsburg County, South Carolina. The 
Service, on behalf of the Applicant, has developed a Habitat 
Conservation Plan (HCP), which describes the mitigation measures 
proposed to address the effects of the Project to the protected 
species. We have determined that the Applicant's proposal, including 
the proposed mitigation measures, will individually and cumulatively 
have a minor or negligible effect on the species covered in the HCP. 
Therefore, the proposed project is considered a ``low-effect'' project 
and would qualify as a categorical exclusion under the National 
Environmental Policy Act (NEPA). The Service announces the availability 
of the HCP for the ITP application. Copies of the HCP are available, 
and your comments are solicited.

DATES: Written comments on the permit application, Determination of Low 
Effect, and HCP should be sent to the Service's Regional Office (see 
ADDRESSES) and should be received on or before June 2, 2003.

ADDRESSES: Persons wishing to review the application, HCP, and 
supporting documentation may obtain a copy by writing the Service's 
Southeast Regional Office, Atlanta, Georgia, at the address below. 
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 Charleston Field Office, 176 Croghan Spur Road, Suite 200, 
Charleston, South Carolina 29407 (Attn: Phil DeGarmo). Written data or 
comments concerning the application, HCP, or supporting documents 
should be submitted to the Regional Office. Requests for the 
documentation should be in writing. Please reference permit number 
TE063814-0 in such comments, or in requests of the documents discussed 

FOR FURTHER INFORMATION CONTACT: Mr. Aaron Valenta, Regional Permit 
Coordinator (see ADDRESSES above), telephone: 404/679-4144; or Mr. Phil 
DeGarmo, Fish and Wildlife Biologist, Charleston Field Office (see 
ADDRESSES above), telephone 843/727-4707, extension 21.

SUPPLEMENTARY INFORMATION: The red-cockaded woodpecker is a 
territorial, non-migratory bird species once common in the southern 
Coastal Plain from east Texas to Florida and north to Maryland, 
Missouri, and Kentucky. Red-cockaded woodpeckers roost and nest in 
cavities excavated in large living pine trees 60 years old or older. 
The red-cockaded woodpecker is a cooperative breeder that lives in 
family groups of one to nine birds, with each bird nesting in a 
separate cavity; the aggregate of cavity trees used by a group is 
called a cluster. Red-cockaded woodpeckers prefer mature longleaf pine 
forests, but also inhabit loblolly, pond, slash, shortleaf, and 
Virginia pine stands. Without periodic fire to control hardwoods, red-
cockaded woodpeckers abandon clusters as other cavity competitors and 
predators typical of hardwood habitats move in. The decline of the red-
cockaded woodpecker is due primarily to loss of the old-growth, fire-
maintained southern pine ecosystem as a result of logging, fire 
suppression, and conversion to non-forest land uses.
    Recovery activities for the red-cockaded woodpecker are focused on 
Federal lands. Private lands are also important in our recovery 
strategy to supplement habitat where the Federal land base is 
insufficient to support recovery, to establish and maintain 
connectivity with populations on public lands, and to provide a donor 
source of juvenile red-cockaded woodpeckers for translocation into 
designated recovery populations. Red-cockaded woodpeckers have 
generally declined on private lands because of habitat fragmentation, 
and a lack of active habitat management. We believe that red-cockaded 
woodpeckers geographically isolated on private lands, as on this site, 
will eventually cease to exist without management for the species.
    The applicant intends to harvest 5 acres of merchantable timber and 
reforest the project site in loblolly pine, resulting in the take of 
one group of red-cockaded woodpeckers through harm resulting from 
habitat alteration. The affected group of red-cockaded woodpeckers is 
not part of a larger population, with the nearest known group found 
approximately one-half mile away. Isolated populations of red-cockaded 
woodpeckers in fragmented habitat limit any contribution to the 
species' recovery by these individuals. The biological goal of the 
applicant's HCP is to create a new breeding group of red-cockaded 
woodpeckers in an area of suitable habitat that will consolidate a 
stable red-cockaded woodpecker population within the species' historic 
range. This will be accomplished by establishing two recruitment 
clusters consisting of at least four artificial cavities at two 
discrete sites on South Carolina Department of Natural Resources 
(SCDNR) property. Mitigation will be considered successful when one 
recruitment cluster is occupied by a potential breeding pair (via 
natural dispersal of resident birds, including subadults) for at least 
6 months, including a breeding season. The National Fish and Wildlife 
Foundation will provide $10,000 to the Fish and Wildlife Service, who 
will then contract with a private consultant to complete the required 
mitigation activities. These activities will consist of conducting the 
mitigation, minimization, and monitoring required to fulfill all 
aspects of this HCP. The Clemson Field Office of the Fish and Wildlife 
Service will fund and supervise the capture and relocation of the 
existing members of the red-cockaded woodpecker group to a donor site 
on managed lands.
    We believe augmenting or creating a new group of red-cockaded 
woodpeckers in an area of better habitat would help to consolidate a 
more stable population. This proposal would offset project impacts 
while allowing the applicant profitable use of his property. Under 
Section 9 of the Endangered Species Act (Act), as amended, and its 
implementing regulations, ``taking'' of endangered and threatened 
wildlife is prohibited. However, under limited circumstances, we may 
issue permits to take such wildlife if the taking is

[[Page 23319]]

incidental to and not the purpose of otherwise lawful activities. Our 
regulations for approving such permit requests are contained in Section 
10(a)(2)(B) of the Act.
    We have determined that the HCP is a low-effect plan that is 
categorically excluded from further NEPA analysis and, therefore, does 
not require the preparation of an environmental assessment or 
environmental impact statement. Low-effect HCPs are those involving: 
(1) Minor or negligible effects on federally listed or candidate 
species and their habitats, and (2) minor or negligible effects on 
other environmental values or resources. The Applicant's HCP qualifies 
for the following reasons:
    1. Approval of the HCP would result in minor or negligible effects 
on the red-cockaded woodpecker and its habitat. We do not anticipate 
significant direct or cumulative effects on this species as a result of 
this project.
    2. Approval of the HCP would not have adverse effects on known 
geographic, historic, or cultural sites, or involve unique or unknown 
environmental risks.
    3. Approval of the HCP would not result in any significant adverse 
effects on public health or safety.
    4. The project does not require compliance with Executive Order 
11988 (Floodplain Management), Executive Order 11990 (Protection of 
Wetlands), or the Fish and Wildlife Coordination Act, nor does it 
threaten to violate a Federal, State, local, or tribal law or 
requirement imposed for protection of the environment.
    5. Approval of the HCP would not establish a precedent for future 
action or represent a decision in principle about future actions with 
potentially significant environmental effects.
    We specifically request information, views, and opinions from the 
public via this Notice on the Federal action. Further, we specifically 
solicit information 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 TE063814-0 in your 
comments. You may mail comments to the Service's Regional Office (see 
ADDRESSES). You may comment via the internet to aaron_valenta@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 e-mail message. If you do 
not receive a confirmation from the Service that we have received your 
e-mail message, contact us directly at either telephone number listed 
    Finally, you may hand-deliver comments to either Service office 
listed above (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 addresses 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.
    We will evaluate the HCP and public comments to determine whether 
the application meets the requirements of Section 10(a) of the Act. We 
will also evaluate whether the issuance of the ITP complies with 
Section 7 of the Act by conducting an intra-Service Section 7 
consultation to ensure that the ITP will not jeopardize the continued 
existence of this species. We will use the results of this 
consultation, in combination with the above findings, to determine if 
the requirements of the ITP are met and whether or not to issue the 

    Dated: April 23, 2003.
J. Mitch King,
Acting Regional Director.
[FR Doc. 03-10725 Filed 4-30-03; 8:45 am]