[Federal Register: September 17, 2010 (Volume 75, Number 180)]
[Page 57059-57061]
From the Federal Register Online via GPO Access [wais.access.gpo.gov]



Fish and Wildlife Service

[FWS-R6-ES-2010-N175; 61130-1115-0000 F2]

Montana Department of Natural Resources and Conservation Final 
Habitat Conservation Plan and Final Environmental Impact Statement

AGENCY: Fish and Wildlife Service, Interior.

ACTION: Notice of availability.


SUMMARY: We, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (Service), announce 
that we have received from the Montana Department of Natural Resources 
and Conservation (DNRC) a Final Habitat Conservation Plan (HCP) and 
prepared a Final Environmental Impact Statement (Final EIS). The 
purpose of the HCP is to provide measures for DNRC's forest management 
activities on State forested trust lands to minimize and mitigate to 
the maximum extent practicable the impacts of authorized incidental 
take under the Endangered Species Act of 1973, as amended (Act).

DATES: The Final HCP/EIS will be released for public review on 
September 17, 2010. We will sign a Record of Decision no sooner than 30 
days after the publication of the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) 
notice of the Final EIS in the Federal Register.

[[Page 57060]]

FOR FURTHER INFORMATION CONTACT: For further information, or to receive 
the documents on CD-ROM, please contact Kathleen Ports, at 406-542-
4330, or Tim Bodurtha, at 406-758-6882.

SUPPLEMENTARY INFORMATION: We have received the Final HCP and prepared 
the Final EIS for DNRC's forest management activities on State forested 
trust lands to minimize and mitigate the impacts of authorized 
incidental take under the Act (16 U.S.C. 1531 et seq.).
    We are the lead agency for issuance of the incidental take permit 
(Permit). On June 26, 2009, we published our notice of receipt of a 
Permit application, Draft HCP, and Draft Implementation Agreement and 
notice of availability of the Draft EIS in the Federal Register (74 FR 
30617). We are now releasing for public review the Final HCP and the 
Final HCP/EIS, which includes our responses to public comments and 
changes to the documents based on public comments and recent scientific 
data. We furnish this notice to allow other agencies and the public an 
opportunity to review the revised documents and our responses to 
comments. For locations to review the documents, please see the 
SUPPLEMENTARY INFORMATION section below. We are providing 30 days to 
allow the public sufficient time to review these final documents.

Availability of Documents

    You may review the documents by requesting copies on CD-ROM from us 
(see FOR FURTHER INFORMATION CONTACT section). The documents are also 
available on the Internet at http://www.dnrc.mt.gov/HCP/default.asp or 
at the following libraries:
     Missoula Public Library, 301 East Main Street, Missoula, 
Montana 59802-4799; (406) 721-2665.
     Flathead County Public Library, 247 First Avenue East, 
Kalispell, Montana 59901-4560; (406) 758-5819.
     Lincoln County Public Library, 220 W. 6th Street, Libby, 
Montana 59923-1898; (406) 293-2778.
     Lewis and Clark Library, 120 South Last Chance Gulch, 
Helena, Montana 59601-4165; (406) 447-1690.
    Persons needing reasonable accommodations to access the public 
review locations should contact Kathleen Ports or Tim Bodurtha, (see 
FOR FURTHER INFORMATION CONTACT section). To allow sufficient time to 
process requests, please call no later than 1 week before the desired 
review time. Information regarding the proposed action is available in 
alternative formats upon request.


    The HCP covers timber harvest and associated activities on 
approximately 548,500 acres (2, 220m\2\) of trust lands in western 
Montana, overseen by three of the six DNRC land offices. The DNRC 
manages scattered parcels and blocks of land in the Swan River State 
Forest and Stillwater State Forest.
    The DNRC prepared a 50-year HCP to address impacts from incidental 
take of grizzly bear (Ursus arctos horribilis), Canada lynx (Lynx 
canadensis), and bull trout (Salvelinus confluentus), which are listed 
as threatened under the Act. Unlisted species included in DNRC's HCP 
and which would receive incidental take authorization, should they be 
listed during the term of the HCP, are the westslope cutthroat trout 
(Oncorhynchus clarki lewisi) and Columbia redband trout (Oncorhynchus 
mykiss gairdneri).
    Substantive modifications to the proposed HCP, as well as any 
associated modifications to the EIS, were made based on: (1) Public 
comments on the 2009 Draft EIS/HCP public comment period; (2) 
information from Canada lynx researcher, Dr. John Squires, U.S. Forest 
Service, whose ongoing research was deemed relevant to finalizing the 
HCP/EIS; and (3) recent guidance from the Council on Environmental 
Quality and recent Service policy on how to address climate change in 
National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) documents. The Service and 
DNRC made substantive modifications to lynx and aquatic conservation 
commitments in the Final HCP/EIS in light of public comment and recent 
    In the Final HCP, DNRC increased the acres subject to lynx 
conservation commitments, removed the commitment to retain a minimum of 
two piles of woody debris per square mile as potential lynx den sites, 
and changed the foraging commitment from maintaining 20 percent of a 
combination of winter and summer foraging habitat to maintaining 20 
percent of winter foraging habitat. We revised the tables in the Final 
HCP/EIS and the Final EIS analysis to reflect the increase of potential 
lynx habitat.
    In the Final HCP, DNRC revised the aquatic riparian timber harvest 
strategy to widen the no-harvest buffer along streams from 25 feet to 
50 feet (8m to 15m) and expand the number of streams subject to HCP 
prescriptions from just streams bearing the fish species covered by the 
HCP to all fish-bearing streams. The EIS analysis was also revised to 
reflect these changes.

National Environmental Policy Act Compliance

    Our proposal to issue a Permit is a Federal action that triggers 
the need for compliance with NEPA. Accordingly, as the Federal agency 
responsible for compliance under NEPA, we have prepared an EIS that 
analyzes alternatives associated with issuance of the Permit. In 
addition to the proposed Permit issuance alternative, other 
alternatives we considered in the EIS include the ``No Action'' 
alternative, an ``Increased Conservation'' alternative, and an 
``Increased Management Flexibility'' alternative. The ``No Action'' 
alternative would reflect continued implementation of the DNRC's 
existing rules and regulations. The ``increased conservation'' 
alternative contains expanded conservation commitments relative to 
those in the proposed HCP. The ``Increased Management Flexibility'' 
alternative contains commitments that would allow for smaller habitat 
areas for some species and longer timelines for implementation relative 
to the proposed HCP.
    The Final EIS includes all comments we received on the Draft EIS 
and our responses to those comments. After the 30-day waiting period, 
we will complete a Record of Decision that announces our decision on 
which action to take and discusses all factors leading to the decision.

Public Involvement

    The Service initiated an environmental review of the project 
through publication of a notice of intent to prepare an EIS in the 
Federal Register on April 26, 2003 (68 FR 22412). Beginning April 28, 
2003, the DNRC and the Service held a 60-day scoping period for the 
proposed HCP and EIS to gather public comments on the proposed action. 
In October 2005, the DNRC opened a 45-day public review period to allow 
interested parties to review and comment on the conservation 
strategies. On June 26, 2009, we published a notice of availability in 
the Federal Register (74 FR 30617) of the Draft EIS/HCP. The draft 
documents were available for public review and comment for a 90-day 
period ending on October 9, 2009.

Public Review

    Copies of the Final HCP/EIS, and Implementing Agreement are 
available for review (see Availability of Documents). Any comments we 
receive will become part of the administrative record and may be 
available to the public. Before submitting comments that include your 
address, telephone

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number, e-mail address, or other personal identifying information, you 
should be aware that your entire comment, including your personal 
identifying information, may be made publicly available at any time. 
While you may 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.
    We will evaluate the application, associated documents, and 
comments submitted to determine whether the application meets the 
requirements of section 10(a) of the Act. We will make a permit 
decision no sooner than 30 days after the publication of the EPA's 
Final EIS notice in the Federal Register and our completion of a 
biological opinion under section 7 of the Act and the Record of 

    Dated: August 24, 2010.
Hugh Morrison,
Acting Regional Director.
[FR Doc. 2010-23099 Filed 9-16-10; 8:45 am]