[Federal Register: June 27, 2005 (Volume 70, Number 122)]
[Page 36945-36947]
From the Federal Register Online via GPO Access [wais.access.gpo.gov]



Fish and Wildlife Service

Notice of Intent To Prepare an Environmental Impact Statement/
Habitat Conservation Plan for a Permit Application to Incidentally Take 
the Endangered Indiana Bat and the Endangered Gray Bat on Indiana State 
Forests and O'Bannon Woods State Park in the State of Indiana

AGENCY: Fish and Wildlife Service, Interior, joint lead; Indiana DNR 
Division of Forestry, joint lead.

ACTION: Notice of intent to prepare an Environmental Impact Statement/
Habitat Conservation Plan.


SUMMARY: The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (Service) is issuing this 
notice to advise the public that it intends to gather the information 
necessary to prepare an Environmental Impact Statement/Habitat 
Conservation Plan (EIS/HCP) regarding an application from the Indiana 
Department of Natural Resources (INDNR), Division of Forestry (DoF), 
Indianapolis, Indiana for an incidental take permit for two covered 
species pursuant to section 10(a)(1)(B) of the Endangered Species Act 
of 1973, as amended (Act). The permit would allow the incidental take 
primarily of the Indiana bat (Myotis sodalis), but also the gray bat 
(Myotis grisescens), on State Forests and O'Bannon Woods State Park in 
the State of Indiana. This notice describes the conservation plan 
(proposed action) and possible alternatives, invites public 
participation in the scoping process for preparing the EIS/HCP, and 
identifies the Service official to whom questions and comments 
concerning the proposed action may be directed.

DATES: Written comments should be received on or before July 27, 2005. 
No public scoping meetings are scheduled for this action.

ADDRESSES: Written comments should be submitted to Mr. Peter Fasbender, 
U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, Ecological Services, 1 Federal Drive, 
Fort Snelling, Minnesota 55111-4056; via facsimile to: (612) 713-5292; 
or via e-mail to: permitsR3ES@fws.gov. Faxed copies should be followed 
by submission of a mailed copy to ensure the complete submission is 

FOR FURTHER INFORMATION CONTACT: Mr. Peter Fasbender, (612) 713-5343.



    On March 11, 1967, the Indiana bat was listed as an endangered 
species following establishment of the Endangered Species Preservation 
Act on October 15, 1966 (Act). The gray bat was listed as an endangered 
species on April 28, 1976. Because of these listings, the bats are 
protected by the Act's prohibition against ``take.'' The Act defines 
``take'' to mean: to harass, harm, pursue, hunt, shoot, wound, kill, 
trap, capture, or collect, or attempt to engage in such conduct. 
``Harm'' is further defined by regulation as any act that kills or 
injures wildlife including significant habitat modification or 
degradation where it actually kills or injures wildlife by 
significantly impairing essential behavior patterns, including 
breeding, foraging, or roosting (50 CFR 17.3). Of the numerous species 
of bats native to Indiana, the Indiana bat (Myotis sodalis) and the 
gray bat (Myotis grisescens) are the only two bat species that are 
designated as federally and state endangered.

[[Page 36946]]

    By authority of the Endangered Species Act, the Service may issue 
permits to carry out prohibited or otherwise lawful activities 
involving endangered or threatened species under certain circumstances 
that may result in take. Regulations governing permits for endangered 
and threatened wildlife can be found at 50 CFR 17.22, 17.23, and 17.32.
    The INDNR is preparing to apply to the Service for an incidental 
take permit pursuant to section 10(a)(1)(B) of the Act, which 
authorizes the issuance of incidental take permits to non-Federal 
landowners. The largest population of Indiana bats in the United States 
occurs in the State of Indiana (Clawson, R.L. 2002). This permit would 
authorize the incidental take of primarily the Indiana bat, along with 
the gray bat and possibly, associated threatened or endangered species 
addressed in the EIS/HCP, during the course of conducting otherwise 
lawful management activities on DoF land in the State of Indiana. 
Although public and private entities or individuals will participate in 
development of the EIS/HCP and may benefit by issuance of an incidental 
take permit, the INDNR has accepted the responsibility of coordinating 
preparation of the EIS/HCP and submission of the permit application for 
Service review and approval.

The Proposed Action

    The action to be described in the EIS/HCP is a program that will 
ensure continued conservation of the Indiana and gray bats on DoF land 
in the State of Indiana, while resolving potential conflicts that may 
arise from otherwise lawful management activities that may involve this 
species and its habitat on non-Federal lands. The HCP project boundary 
includes public forest land owned by INDNR and managed by DoF and 
O'Bannon Woods State Park, owned by INDNR and managed by the Division 
of State Parks and Reservoirs. The DoF currently manages about 150,000 
acres. This acreage constitutes about 3.4% of the state's forest lands 
and about 0.7% of the total state land base. The INDNR owns some of the 
larger contiguous forest parcels remaining in the state as well as 
several caves used as hibernacula by the Indiana bat. The environmental 
impacts that may result from implementation of a conservation program 
described in the EIS/HCP, or as a result of implementing other 
alternatives, will be evaluated and described in the EIS/HCP. The 
Service, INDNR, and other environmental consultants and entities are 
involved in the process of information gathering, development and 
preparation of the section 10(a)(1)(B) permit application, as well as 
formulating the combined EIS/HCP document.
    Development of the EIS/HCP will involve a public process that 
includes review of NEPA documents and interagency coordination with 
other Federal and state agencies, counties, towns, industries, 
utilities, foresters, biologists, and representatives of various 
environmental and recreational use organizations. Conservation 
strategies to be applied on DoF land will differ depending on 
objectives and management activity. It is anticipated that 
implementation of conservation strategies will be through an 
Implementation Agreement (IA) or other cooperative agreement.


No Action Alternative

    Under the No Action Alternative, no section 10(a)(1)(B) permit(s) 
would be issued and activities involving the take of the Indiana or 
gray bats on DoF land would remain prohibited under section 9 of the 
Act. Management activities currently in place to avoid a take of the 
Indiana or gray bats could continue. If a Federal action were proposed 
on DoF land that would affect either bat, incidental take could be 
obtained through the section 7 consultation process and development of 
an incidental take statement if the action were determined to not 
jeopardize the continued existence of the species. Under the No Action 
Alternative, the INDNR DoF would continue its operations and current 
management strategy according to the 2001 DoF Resource Management 
Strategy for Indiana bat on Indiana State Forests, and in compliance 
with interim guidance provided by the Service to avoid take. This 
strategy, developed voluntarily by the DoF as a management tool for 
State Forest managers, defines guidelines for protecting and enhancing 
Indiana and gray bat habitat on DoF land.

Proposed Action (EIS/HCP and Incidental Take Permit)

    The proposed action alternative seeks to address continued 
management of habitat through maintenance and management schemes on all 
DoF lands in the State of Indiana. Completion of the EIS/HCP and 
issuance of the Take Permit will allow lawful forest management and 
recreational activities to continue while some anticipated take of 
Indiana or gray bats may occur. It will also provide guidance for 
appropriate forest management that will benefit the Indiana bat and 
other species of management concern within the context of the DoF's 
broader management mandates. Development of the HCP will provide for 
increased emphasis on Indiana bat habitat management, protection and 
maintenance of priority hibernacula, conservation strategies to assure 
an adequate supply of summer roosts, and an increase in the quality and 
quantity of foraging and maternity habitat within mixed forest 
    The proposed action will address tree harvesting and best 
management practices for water quality on DoF land to assure 
compatibility with Indiana and gray bat management. Conservation 
strategies will be developed consistent with the Indiana Bat Recovery 
Plan. These strategies will be developed to be consistent with DoF 
obligations to provide for species of wildlife requiring early-, mid-, 
and late-successional habitats, as well as other multiple-use products 
and benefits. If science and conservation strategies evolve or 
demonstrate a need to change, INDNR would adapt or modify the 
conservation strategy as needed.
    This alternative seeks authority for a long-term incidental take 
permit. The HCP will assure appropriate conservation measures as well 
as monitoring and reporting procedures, as required for issuance of an 
incidental take permit by the Service. Service involvement in 
developing this HCP and application for permit will assure land use and 
forest management practices that are consistent with the requirements 
of the Act. The goal of the HCP is also intended to provide a forest 
management example for private forest owners who control a majority of 
the Indiana and gray bat habitat in the State of Indiana.

Alternative 3

    A third alternative may involve similar objectives and conservation 
strategies as those developed in the proposed action with an increased 
level of effort to maintain the oak-hickory forest component at current 
levels on DoF land. Management activities would favor oaks, hickories, 
and other shade intolerant and mid-tolerant tree species, many of which 
are preferred summer roost tree habitat. This alternative would provide 
a mixture of stand structures and developmental stages for foraging 
opportunities while maintaining an adequate number of suitable roost 
tree opportunities across the landscape. DoF would identify 
silvicultural practices and timber management activities that target 
achievement of a desired future

[[Page 36947]]

condition of maintaining an oak-hickory forest component, on DoF 
managed lands, on an area equivalent to the area occupied by the oak-
hickory component in 2005. Total regenerated openings would nearly 
double over that of the proposed action. Under this alternative the DoF 
would continue timber and recreation management activities under an 
amended Resource Management Strategy for Indiana and gray bat on 
Indiana State Forests. This action alternative may also include a 
section 10(a)(1)(B) permit application.

Issue Resolution and Environmental Review

    The primary issue to be addressed during the scoping and planning 
process for the EIS and HCP is how to resolve potential conflicts 
between timber and recreation management practices and the endangered 
Indiana and gray bats and their habitat on DoF land in the State of 
Indiana. A tentative list of issues, concerns and opportunities has 
been developed. There will be a discussion of the potential effect, by 
alternative, which may include the following areas:
     Indiana bat and its habitat: summer maternity and 
individual males, spring staging, autumn swarming, and winter 
     Gray bat and its habitat: summer riparian areas, summer 
day roosting, and winter hibernacula
     Other federally listed endangered or threatened species on 
DoF land
     State listed endangered and threatened species on DoF land
     Game species
     Effects on other species of flora and fauna
     Best management practices and water quality
     Biological diversity of habitat
     Oak-hickory regeneration
     Socioeconomic effects
     Other conservation measures
     Use of state public lands for Indiana bat conservation
     Anticipated take of listed species
    Environmental review of the permit application will be conducted in 
accordance with the requirements of the National Environmental Policy 
Act of 1969, as amended (42 U.S.C. 4321 et seq.), National 
Environmental Policy Act regulations (40 CFR parts 1500-1508), other 
appropriate Federal regulations, and Service procedures for compliance 
with those regulations. This notice is being furnished in accordance 
with Sec.  1501.7 of the National Environmental Policy Act, to obtain 
suggestions and information from other agencies, tribes, and the public 
on the scope of issues to be addressed in the ESI/HCP.
    Because preparation, approval, and implementation of the HCP are 
actions requiring environmental review, the INDNR and the Service 
agreed to prepare a single environmental document that would comply 
with the requirements of NEPA as well as other Federal and state 
regulations. Preparation of a joint document is intended to reduce 
paperwork and best utilize limited public resources while ensuring 
broad public involvement. Comments and participation in this scoping 
process are solicited.
    The draft EIS/HCP is expected to be available to the public in the 
winter of 2005.

    Authority: 42 U.S.C. 4321-4347; 40 CFR 1500-1508.

    Dated: June 3, 2005.
Charlie Wooley,
Acting Regional Director, Region 3, Fort Snelling, Minnesota.
[FR Doc. 05-12638 Filed 6-24-05; 8:45 am]