[Federal Register: October 27, 2003 (Volume 68, Number 207)]
[Page 61227-61228]
From the Federal Register Online via GPO Access [wais.access.gpo.gov]



Fish and Wildlife Service

Notice of Availability of a Draft Environmental Assessment 
Entitled: Proposal To Implement Candidate Conservation Agreements and 
Conservation Measures for Eastern Massasaugas in States Within Region 3 
of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service

AGENCY: Fish and Wildlife Service, Interior.

ACTION: Notice of availability.


SUMMARY: This notice advises the public and other agencies of the 
availability of a draft Environmental Assessment (EA) and that the U.S. 
Fish and Wildlife Service (Service) is seeking public comment on this 
draft EA. The eastern massasauga (Sistrurus catenatus catenatus, 
hereafter massasauga) is a Federal candidate species for listing under 
the Endangered Species Act of 1973, as amended. The purpose of the EA 
is to evaluate the environmental consequences of implementing different 
strategies for conserving the remaining massasauga populations in 
Region 3. The Service believes that implementing adequate conservation 
efforts during the candidate stage may be sufficient to preclude the 
need to Federally list the subspecies.

DATES: Written comments must be received on or before November 26, 

ADDRESSES: Written comments can be mailed to the address or fax number 
below. Electronic mail comments should be submitted to: fw3_massasauga@fws.gov. Persons wishing to review the document may obtain a 
copy by writing, telephoning, faxing, or e-mailing: Regional CCA 
Coordinator, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, 1 Federal Drive, Fort 
Snelling, Minnesota 55111; Telephone: (612) 713-5343; Fax: (612) 713-
5292. The draft EA is also available at the

[[Page 61228]]

following Internet address: http://midwest.fws.gov/nepa.

Coordinator, Telephone: (612) 713-5343, or e-mail: peter_fasbender@fws.gov.


Public Involvement

    The draft EA is available for public review and comment for a 
period of 30 days. This notice is provided pursuant to National 
Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) regulations (40 CFR 1506.6). Copies of 
the document can be obtained as indicated in the ADDRESSES section. In 
addition, documents will be available for public inspection during 
normal business hours (8-4:30), at the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, 
1 Federal Drive, Fort Snelling, Minnesota.
    All comments received from individuals become part of the official 
public record. Requests for such comments will be handled in accordance 
with the Freedom of Information Act and the Council on Environmental 
Quality's NEPA regulations (40 CFR 1506.6(f)). 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 record, which 
we will honor to the extent allowable by law. If a respondent wishes us 
to withhold his/her name and/or address, this must be stated 
prominently at the beginning of the comment.

Candidate Conservation Agreements

    Candidate Conservation Agreements (CCAs) are formal agreements 
between the Service and one or more parties to address the conservation 
needs of proposed or candidate species, or species likely to become 
candidates, before they become listed as endangered or threatened. The 
participants voluntarily commit to implementing specific actions that 
will remove or reduce the threats to these species, thereby 
contributing to stabilizing or restoring the species. In some cases, 
this may provide enough protection that listing is no longer necessary. 
The Service has entered into many Candidate Conservation Agreements 
over the years, primarily with other Federal agencies, State and local 
agencies, and conservation organizations. Some of these have 
successfully removed threats and listing was avoided.
    Candidate Conservation Agreements with Assurances (CCAAs) provide 
non-Federal property owners who voluntarily agree to manage their lands 
or waters to remove threats to candidate or proposed species assurances 
that their conservation efforts will not result in future regulatory 
obligations in excess of those they agree to at the time they enter 
into the Agreement. In return for the participant's proactive 
management, the Service provides take authorization through the section 
10(a)(1)(A) process of the ESA, which authorizes issuance of permits 
that will enhance the survival of the species. The permit would allow 
participants to take individuals or modify habitat to return population 
levels and habitat conditions to those agreed upon and specified in the 

Background on Candidate Conservation Agreements for Massasauga

    The range of the eastern massasauga extends from western New York 
and southern Ontario to Iowa and southward to Missouri. The 
massasauga's decline is primarily attributed to habitat loss and 
persecution. The Service elevated the massasauga to the Federal 
candidate status in 1999. In 2001, the Service funded a region-wide 
massasauga conservation initiative. Region 3 States were given funds 
for the investigation and development of CCAs and CCAAs for pertinent 
Region 3 States, local land-management agencies, and private land 
owners. Illinois, Iowa, Michigan, Missouri, Ohio, and Wisconsin are the 
Region 3 States in various stages of CCA development. The CCA form will 
vary by State and site.

Background on Environmental Assessment

    The draft EA considers two action alternatives and the ``No 
Action'' alternative. Alternative A implements CCA's or CCAA's for the 
massasauga on protected lands (i.e., state property) throughout Region 
3. Alternative C relies on the use of current regulatory tools to 
recover the massasauga if it becomes listed under the Act. The NEPA 
process will be completed after the comment period, at which time the 
Service will consider and respond to any submitted comments in Chapter 
7 of the final EA. The Regional Director will decide whether to select 
one of the three alternatives and issue a Finding of No Significant 
Impact (FONSI), or to proceed in developing an Environmental Impact 
Statement if she determines there would be significant impacts.
    The areas included in Candidate Conservation Agreements (listed in 
Sub-Section 1.4 of the EA) may contain facilities eligible to be listed 
on the National Register of Historic Places and other historical or 
archeological resources. The National Historic Preservation Act and 
other laws require these properties and resources be identified and 
considered in project planning. The public is requested to inform the 
Service of concerns about archeological sites, buildings and 
structures, historic events, sacred and traditional areas, and other 
historic preservation concerns.

    Authority: 16 U.S.C. 1531, et seq.; 42 U.S.C. 4321-4347.

    Dated: September 23, 2003.
Lynn M. Lewis,
Acting Assistant Regional Director, Ecological Services, Region 3, Fort 
Snelling, Minnesota.
[FR Doc. 03-26977 Filed 10-24-03; 8:45 am]