[Federal Register: July 21, 2009 (Volume 74, Number 138)]
[Page 35883-35885]
From the Federal Register Online via GPO Access [wais.access.gpo.gov]



Fish and Wildlife Service

[FWS-R1-ES-2009-N129; 10120-1112-0000-F2]

Endangered and Threatened Wildlife and Plants; Permit 
Application, Northern Spotted Owl, Oregon

AGENCY: Fish and Wildlife Service, Interior.

ACTION: Receipt of application for enhancement of survival permit; 
notice of availability of programmatic safe harbor agreement.


SUMMARY: The Oregon Department of Forestry (ODF) has applied to the 
U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (Service) for an enhancement of survival 
permit (permit) pursuant to the Endangered Species Act of 1973, as 
amended. The permit application includes a proposed programmatic safe 
harbor agreement (Agreement) between ODF, the U.S. Department of 
Agriculture--Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS), and the 
Service. The proposed term of the permit and Agreement is 50 years. The 
requested permit would authorize ODF to extend incidental take coverage 
with assurances through issuance of Certificates of Inclusion to 
eligible landowners who are willing to carry out habitat management 
measures that would benefit the northern spotted owl (Strix 
occidentalis caurina), which is federally listed as threatened. The 
covered area or geographic scope of this Agreement includes non-Federal 
forest lands within the range of the spotted owl in Oregon. We request 
comments from the public on the permit application, proposed Agreement, 
and related documents, which are available for review (see ADDRESSES 

DATES: Comments must be received from interested parties on or before 
August 20, 2009.

ADDRESSES: You may submit your written comments to State Supervisor 
(see SUPPLEMENTARY INFORMATION below). Include your name and address in 
your comments and refer to the ``Spotted Owl Programmatic Safe Harbor 

INFORMATION below), telephone (503) 231-6179. Persons who use a 
telecommunications device for the deaf (TDD) may call the Federal 
Information Relay Service (FIRS) at 800/877-8339, 24 hours a day, 7 
days a week.


Document Availability

    You may obtain copies of the draft documents by contacting the 
State Supervisor, Oregon Fish and Wildlife Office, U.S. Fish and 
Wildlife Service, 2600 SE., 98th Ave., Suite 100, Portland, OR 97266; 
telephone (503) 231-6179; facsimile (503) 231-6195; or by making an 
appointment to view the documents at the above address during normal 
business hours. You may also view the documents on the Internet at 
http://www.fws.gov/oregonfwo/species/. The

[[Page 35884]]

Service is furnishing this notice to provide the public, other State 
and Federal agencies, and interested Tribes an opportunity to review 
and comment of the draft documents.

Public Availability of Comments

    Before including your address, phone number, e-mail address, or 
other personal identifying information in your comment, you should be 
aware that your entire comment--including your personal identifying 
information--may be made publicly available at any time. While you can 
ask us in your comment to withhold your personal identifying 
information from public review, we cannot guarantee that we will be 
able to do so.


    Under a Safe Harbor Agreement, participating landowners voluntarily 
undertake management activities on their property to enhance, restore, 
or maintain habitat benefiting species listed under the Endangered 
Species Act of 1973, as amended (Act; 16 U.S.C. 1531 et seq.). Safe 
Harbor Agreements, and the subsequent enhancement of survival permits 
that are issued pursuant to section 10(a)(1)(A) of the Act, encourage 
private and other non-Federal property owners to implement conservation 
efforts for listed species by assuring the landowners that they will 
not be subjected to increased property use restrictions as a result of 
their efforts to either attract listed species to their property, or to 
increase the numbers or distribution of listed species already on their 
property. Application requirements and issuance criteria for 
enhancement of survival permits for federally listed threatened species 
through Safe Harbor Agreements are found in 50 CFR 17.32(c). These 
permits allow future incidental take of any covered species above the 
mutually agreed upon baseline conditions for those species in 
accordance with the terms of the permit and accompanying agreement.
    We jointly developed the proposed Agreement with ODF and NRCS for 
the conservation of the northern spotted owl. State of Oregon statutes 
give ODF the authority to enter into Stewardship Agreements with 
landowners who wish to voluntarily improve fish and wildlife habitat 
and water quality. Stewardship Agreements provide regulatory certainty 
to landowners in complying with State forest practice requirements. The 
proposed Safe Harbor Agreement is intended to compliment ODF's 
Stewardship Agreement program.
    On March 30, 2009, NRCS announced a sign-up for the Healthy Forest 
Reserve Program (HFRP) in Oregon to landowners interested in promoting 
the recovery of threatened and endangered species, improving 
biodiversity, and enhancing carbon sequestration. The sign-up period 
closed on April 30, 2009. The HFRP is a voluntary program established 
for the purpose of restoring and enhancing forest ecosystems. There are 
two enrollment options with the HFRP in Oregon for fiscal year 2009: A 
10-year restoration agreement and a permanent easement. Under a 
restoration agreement, participants can receive 50 percent of the cost 
of selected conservation practices. With a permanent easement, the HFRP 
pays 100 percent of the easement value and 100 percent of the cost of 
selected activities. Landowners continue to manage the land for timber 
production while maintaining habitat for spotted owls under the 
permanent easement. The HFRP is incorporated into the Agreement to 
provide an additional financial incentive for landowners to become a 
party to the Agreement. The future availability of funding for the HFRP 
will depend upon Congressional appropriations.
    The area covered by this Agreement includes all non-Federal, 
forest-capable lands within the historic range of the spotted owl in 
Oregon. Sites not currently occupied by spotted owls or not containing 
potentially suitable habitat will have a baseline condition of zero 
unless a landowner is willing to accept a baseline greater than zero to 
support an enhanced level of conservation after the Agreement expires. 
Sites known to be occupied by spotted owls or that contain suitable 
habitat will have their baseline conditions determined on a case-by-
case basis by ODF and the Service, with landowner consent. Baseline 
conditions will be expressed in terms of the amount (acres) and quality 
of habitat. Forest characteristics such as stand age, tree species 
composition, average diameters, number of canopy layers, average canopy 
closure, and number of snags will be used to reference habitat quality.
    The purpose of this Agreement is to encourage private landowners to 
create, maintain, and enhance spotted owl habitat through forest 
management. The northern spotted owl was listed as a threatened species 
by the Service in 1990 (55 FR 26114) via a final rule published in the 
Federal Register June 26, 1990, with an effective date of July 30, 
1990. One of the primary threats affecting the spotted owl is the 
widespread loss of suitable habitat. Spotted owls are most often found 
in older forests with: High canopy closure; a multi-layered/multi-
species canopy; larger trees (greater than 30 inches diameter at chest 
height); a high incidence of those large trees with various deformities 
(broken tops, large cavities, e.g.); large dead trees; accumulations of 
woody debris on the ground, including large fallen trees; and 
sufficient open space below the tree canopy for spotted owls to fly. 
Much of the private, commercial forest land in Oregon has been 
previously harvested at least once and has been replanted. The even-
aged forest stands that typically develop after replanting are dense, 
with little variation in tree spacing, tree heights, and species 
composition. Trees are often harvested on 40-60 year rotations, or 
less. This type of management does not provide the time for development 
of good quality spotted owl habitat, or the conditions to establish a 
diversity of habitat structure. This Agreement is intended to encourage 
landowners to voluntarily manage their forests on longer rotations and 
to create more structural diversity through active management that 
would more closely mimic natural conditions.
    Under this Agreement, private lands may be enrolled through 
individual Stewardship Agreements between the ODF and cooperating 
landowners. Landowners who also participate in the HFRP will have to 
meet additional NRCS requirements. The duration of the Stewardship 
Agreements would vary depending on circumstances, but would not be less 
than 10 years. Cooperators will be issued a Certificate of Inclusion 
which will allow activities on the enrolled properties to be included 
within ODF's section 10(a)(1)(A) enhancement of survival permit. 
Cooperators may renew their Stewardship Agreements to remain in effect 
for the 50-year duration of the permit. Cooperators will avoid 
conducting activities that could adversely impact the spotted owl's 
habitat during the term of their Stewardship Agreement.
    Without the regulatory assurances provided through the Agreement 
and permit, landowners may otherwise be unwilling or reluctant to 
manage their lands in a way that would attract federally listed species 
such as the spotted owl onto their properties. The proposed Agreement 
is expected to provide a net conservation benefit to the spotted owl by 
enhancing the quality, quantity, or connectivity of forest habitat, 
thereby increasing the distribution, abundance, and genetic diversity 
of the species.
    The Service has made a preliminary determination that the proposed 
Agreement and permit application are

[[Page 35885]]

eligible for a categorical exclusion under the National Environmental 
Policy Act of 1969 (NEPA). We explain the basis for this determination 
in an Environmental Action Statement that is also available for public 
review (see ADDRESSES).
    The Service will evaluate the permit application, associated 
documents, and comments submitted thereon to determine whether the 
permit application meets the requirements of section 10(a)(1)(A) of the 
Act and that other applicable requirements have been satisfied. If we 
determine that all requirements are met, we will sign the Agreement and 
issue an enhancement of survival permit under section 10(a)(1)(A) of 
the Act to ODF for the take of northern spotted owls, incidental to 
otherwise lawful activities in accordance with the terms of the 
Agreement. This notice is provided pursuant to section 10(c) of the Act 
and NEPA regulations (40 CFR 1506.6).

    Dated: July 14, 2009.
Miel Corbett,
Acting State Supervisor, Fish and Wildlife Service, Oregon Fish and 
Wildlife Office, Portland, Oregon.
[FR Doc. E9-17281 Filed 7-20-09; 8:45 am]