[Federal Register: October 27, 2010 (Volume 75, Number 207)]
[Page 66122-66123]
From the Federal Register Online via GPO Access [wais.access.gpo.gov]

[[Page 66122]]



Fish and Wildlife Service

[FWS-R5-ES-2010-N124; 50120-1113-0000-F4]

Endangered and Threatened Wildlife and Plants: New Hampshire Fish 
and Game Department, Application for Enhancement of Survival Permit, 
New England Cottontail, Hillsborough, Rockingham, Merrimack, Cheshire, 
and Strafford Counties, NH

AGENCY: Fish and Wildlife Service, Interior.

ACTION: Notice of availability and receipt of application; request for 


SUMMARY: The New Hampshire Fish and Game Department (NHFGD) has applied 
to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (Service) for an Enhancement of 
Survival Permit under the Endangered Species Act of 1973 (ESA), as 
amended. The requested permit would authorize take of the New England 
cottontail (Sylvilagus transitionalis; hereafter, NEC) resulting from 
certain habitat improvement and land use activities should the species 
be listed as endangered or threatened in the future. The permit 
application includes a proposed Candidate Conservation Agreement with 
Assurances (CCAA) between the NHFGD and the Service. In accordance with 
the requirements of the National Environmental Policy Act of 1969 
(NEPA), we have prepared a draft categorical exclusion of the impacts 
of the requested permit. We are accepting comments on the permit 
application, proposed CCAA, and draft NEPA document.

DATES: Written comments on the permit application, draft CCAA, and 
draft NEPA document must be received on or before November 26, 2010.

ADDRESSES: Address any written comments concerning this notice to 
Anthony Tur, New England Field Office, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, 
70 Commercial Street, Suite 300, Concord, NH 03301; alternatively, fax 
written comments to 603-224-0104, or electronically mail comments to 

FOR FURTHER INFORMATION CONTACT: Anthony Tur, at the New England Field 
Office (see ADDRESSES above), 603-223-2541; facsimile 603-223-0104, or 
Anthony_Tur@fws.gov. If you use a telecommunications device for the 
deaf (TDD), you may call the Federal Information Relay Service (FIRS) 
at 800-877-8339.


Document Availability

    Copies of the permit application, proposed CCAA, and draft NEPA 
document are available for public inspection, by appointment, at the 
New England Field Office (see ADDRESSES), or you may view them on the 
Internet at http://www.fws.gov/newengland/. Copies of these documents 
can also be obtained by contacting the office and personnel listed in 
the ADDRESSES section.
    We furnish this notice to provide the public, other State and 
Federal agencies, and interested Tribes an opportunity to review and 
comment on the permit application, proposed CCAA, and draft NEPA 
document. We specifically request information, views, and opinions from 
the public on the proposed Federal action of issuing a permit. Further, 
we solicit information regarding the adequacy of the permit 
application, including the proposed CCAA, as measured against our 
permit issuance criteria found in 50 CFR 17.22(d) and 17.32(d).

Public Availability of Comments

    Before including your address, telephone number, electronic mail 
address, or other personal identifying information in your comment, be 
advised 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 from public review your personal 
identifying information, we cannot guarantee that we will be able to do 


    Permits for enhancement of survival through CCAAs encourage non-
Federal property owners to implement conservation measures for species 
that are, or are likely to become, candidates for Federal listing as 
endangered or threatened by assuring property owners they will not be 
subjected to increased property use restrictions if the covered species 
becomes listed in the future. Application requirements and issuance 
criteria for permits for enhancement of survival through CCAAs are in 
the Code of Regulations (CFR) at 50 CFR 17.22(d) and 17.32(d). See also 
our policy on CCAAs (64 FR 32726; June 17, 1999).
    The CCAA that is the subject of this notice is a programmatic 
agreement between the Service and the NHFGD to further the conservation 
of the NEC. Under the CCAA, the NHFGD would establish a program in 
which individual property owners can enroll. To enroll in the program, 
a property owner would enter into a cooperative agreement with the 
NHFGD that contains a site-specific management plan for the enrolled 
lands, and the NHFGD would then issue the property owner a Certificate 
of Inclusion. The site-specific management plan will specify 
conservation measures to address known threats to the NEC which may 
include, but are not limited to, cutting vegetation to promote 
establishment of shrubland habitat, maintaining existing shrubland 
habitat, planting seeds and seedlings, controlling invasive plants 
species, removing non-native eastern cottontails, and translocating NEC 
to newly created habitats. The plan will also specify measures to 
minimize the incidental take of NEC that might occur as a result of 
implementing the conservation measures or conducting other covered 
activities. The Certificate of Inclusion issued to the property owner 
will authorize this incidental take of the NEC if the species becomes 
listed under the ESA in the future.
    The NHFGD seeks to enroll in the program 3,000 to 5,000 acres of 
private and State-owned lands for NEC habitat management in 
Hillsborough, Rockingham, Merrimack, Cheshire, and Strafford Counties 
in southern New Hampshire. Lands targeted for NEC habitat management 
are generally those for which the current land use maintains or is 
capable of maintaining suitable NEC habitat with minimal take of NECs. 
Site potential for enrolled lands will be evaluated through a Habitat 
Suitability Index. Because resources for implementing conservation 
measures on enrolled lands are limited, sites with the highest 
potential value will be prioritized for enrollment based on proximity 
to existing occupied sites, along with other habitat parameters. Also 
eligible for enrollment are those lands under the same ownership that 
are adjacent to lands being managed for the benefit of NEC (hereafter 
referred to as ``adjacent lands''). These adjacent lands include areas 
where ongoing and future activities (e.g., hay production and timber 
harvesting) may result in inadvertent take of NEC. Although the amount 
of adjacent acreage that a property owner will enroll under this CCAA 
will depend on the circumstances specific to the property and property 
owner, we estimate that the typical property owner will enroll an area 
of adjacent lands about equal to twice the area of the lands managed 
for NEC. Therefore, about 10,000 acres of adjacent lands are associated 
with the 5,000 acres targeted for NEC habitat management. If we were to 
reach our target of 5,000 acres managed for NEC

[[Page 66123]]

under this CCAA, then we estimate a total of about 15,000 acres would 
be enrolled under this CCAA.
    As required by NEPA, we evaluated the effects to the environment 
that would result from issuance of the requested permit, and we do not 
foresee any significant effects. Therefore, we are proposing to 
categorically exclude this action from further analysis under NEPA. 
Entering into a cooperative agreement is strictly voluntary for 
property owners, and the activities to be covered under the permit are 
generally activities already occurring on these properties.
    We will evaluate the permit application, associated documents, and 
comments we receive to determine whether the permit application meets 
the requirements of the ESA, NEPA, and implementing regulations. If we 
determine that all requirements are met, we will sign the proposed CCAA 
and issue a permit under section 10(a)(1)(A) of the ESA to the NHFGD 
for take of NEC. We will not make our final decision until after the 
end of the 30-day public comment period, and we will fully consider all 
comments we receive during the public comment period.

    Dated: June 18, 2010.
Sherry W. Morgan,
Acting Regional Director, Region 5, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, 
Hadley, Massachusetts.
[FR Doc. 2010-27001 Filed 10-26-10; 8:45 am]