[Federal Register: January 24, 2006 (Volume 71, Number 15)]
[Page 3882-3883]
From the Federal Register Online via GPO Access [wais.access.gpo.gov]



Fish and Wildlife Service

Proposed Programmatic Statewide Red-cockaded Woodpecker Safe 
Harbor Agreement, Florida

AGENCY: Fish and Wildlife Service, Interior.

ACTION: Notice of permit application.


SUMMARY: The Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FFWC or 
Applicant) has applied to the Fish and Wildlife Service (Service) for 
an enhancement of survival permit (ESP) pursuant to section 10(a)(1)(A) 
of the Endangered Species Act of 1973, as amended (Act) (16 U.S.C. 1531 
et seq.). The ESP application includes a proposed Safe Harbor Agreement 
(Agreement) for the endangered red-cockaded woodpecker, (Picoides 
borealis) (RCW), for a period of 99 years. If approved, the Agreement 
would allow the Applicant to issue Certificates of Inclusion (CI) 
throughout the State of Florida to eligible non-Federal landowners that 
complete an approved Safe Harbor Management Agreement (SHMA).
    We announce the opening of a 30-day comment period and request 
comments from the public on the Applicant's ESP application; the 
accompanying proposed Agreement, and the supporting Environmental 
Action Statement (EAS) Screening Form. All comments received, including 
names and addresses, will become part of the official administrative 
record and may be made available to the public, subject to the 
requirements of the Privacy Act and Freedom of Information Act. For 
further information and instructions on reviewing and commenting on 
this application, see the ADDRESSES section, below.

DATES: Written comments should be received on or before February 23, 

ADDRESSES: You may obtain a copy of the information available by 
contacting the Service's Regional Safe Harbor Coordinator, U.S. Fish 
and Wildlife Service, 1875 Century Boulevard, Suite 200, Atlanta, 
Georgia 30345, or Field Supervisor, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, 
Ecological Services Field Office, 1601 Balboa Avenue, Panama City, 
Florida 32405. Alternatively, you may set up an appointment to view 
these documents at either location during normal business hours. 
Written data or comments should be submitted to the Atlanta, Georgia, 
Regional Office. Requests for the documentation must be in writing to 
be processed, and comments must be in writing to be considered. When 
you are requesting or reviewing the information provided in this 
notice, please reference ``Proposed Programmatic Statewide Red-cockaded 
Woodpecker Safe Harbor Agreement, Florida'' in any correspondence.

FOR FURTHER INFORMATION CONTACT: Mr. Richard Gooch, Regional Safe 
Harbor Program Coordinator at the Service's Southeast Regional Office 
(see ADDRESSES above), telephone (404) 679-7124; or Mr. Stan Simpkins, 
Ecologist, Panama City Ecological Services Field Office (see ADDRESSES 
above), telephone (850) 769-0552.

SUPPLEMENTARY INFORMATION: Primary threats to the RCW throughout its 
range all have the same basic cause: lack of suitable habitat. To help 
address this threat, the Service has previously entered into 
programmatic Safe Harbor Agreements in Georgia, Louisiana, and South 
Carolina. These previous agreements are similar to the Agreement that 
is being proposed by FFWC.
    Under a Safe Harbor Agreement, participating property owners 
voluntarily undertake management activities on their property to 
enhance, restore, or maintain habitat benefiting species listed under 
the Act. Safe Harbor Agreements encourage private and other non-Federal 
property owners to implement conservation efforts for listed species by 
assuring property owners they will not be subjected to increased 
property use restrictions if their efforts attract listed species to 
their property or increase the numbers or distribution of listed 
species already on their property. Application requirements and 
issuance criteria for ESPs through Safe Harbor Agreements are found in 
50 CFR 17.22 and 17.32.
    The FFWCs proposed state-wide Agreement is designed to encourage 
voluntary RCW habitat restoration or enhancement activities by 
relieving a landowner who enters into a landowner-specific agreement 
(the SHMA) from any additional responsibility under the Act beyond that 
which exists at the time he or she enters into the program. The SHMA 
will identify any existing RCWs and any associated habitat (the 
baseline) and will describe the actions that the landowner commits to 
take (e.g., hardwood midstory removal, cavity provisioning, prescribed 
burning, etc.) or will allow to be taken to improve RCW habitat on the 
property, and the time period within which those actions are to be 
taken and maintained. A participating landowner must maintain the 
baseline on his/her property (i.e., any existing RCW groups and/or 
associated habitat), but may be allowed the opportunity to incidentally 
take RCWs at some point in the future if above baseline RCWs are 
attracted to that site by the proactive management measures undertaken 
by the landowner. It is important to note that the Agreement does not 
envision, nor will it authorize, incidental take of any pre-SHMA 
existing RCW group with one exception. This exception is incidental 
take related to a baseline shift; in this circumstance the baseline 
will be maintained but redrawn or shifted on that landowner's property. 
Among the minimization measures proposed by the Applicant are no 
incidental take of RCWs during the breeding season, consolidation of 
small, isolated RCW populations at sites capable of supporting a viable 
RCW population, and measures to improve current and potential habitat 
for the species. Further details on the topics described above are 
found in the aforementioned documents available for review under this 
    The geographic scope of the Applicant's Agreement is the entire 
State of Florida, but the Agreement would only authorize the future 
incidental take of above-baseline RCW groups on lands for which a CI 
has been issued. Lands potentially eligible for inclusion include all 
privately owned lands and public lands owned by cities, counties, and 
municipalities, with potentially suitable RCW habitat in Florida.

[[Page 3883]]

    The agreement is expected to attract sufficient interest among 
Florida landowners to generate substantial conservation benefits to the 
RCW on a landscape scale. FFWCs agreement was developed in an adaptive 
management framework to allow changes in the program based on new 
scientific information including, but not limited to, biological needs 
and management actions proven to benefit the species or its habitat.
    We have made a preliminary determination that issuance of the ESP 
will not result in significant environmental, economic, social, 
historical, cultural impacts and is therefore, categorically excluded 
from review under the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) of 1969, 
as amended pursuant to 516 Department Manual 2, Appendix 1 and 516 
Department Manual 6 Appendix 1. In addition, we have evaluated the 
proposed ESP under section 106 of the National Historic Preservation 
Act and have concluded that this Agreement will not affect cultural 
resources on or eligible for, the National Historic Register of 
Historic Places. We base our conclusions on our review of the process 
for protection and consideration of cultural resources included in the 
associated Agreement as well as the scope of the voluntary management 
actions identified in the Agreement. We have consulted with the Florida 
State Historic Preservation Officer and have received concurrence with 
our conclusion. We have also consulted with the appropriate Tribal 
Preservation Officers.
    We provide this notice pursuant to section 10(c) of the Act and 
pursuant to implementing regulations for NEPA (40 CFR 1506.6). We will 
evaluate the proposed Agreement, associated documents, and comments 
submitted thereon to determine whether the requirements of section 
10(a) of the Act and NEPA have been met. If we determine that the 
requirements are met, we will issue an ESP under section 10(a)(1)(A) of 
the Act to the Applicant in accordance with the terms of the Agreement 
and specific terms and conditions of the authorizing ESP. 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 

    Dated: December 28, 2005.
Cynthia K. Dohner,
Acting Regional Director.
 [FR Doc. E6-797 Filed 1-23-06; 8:45 am]