[Federal Register Volume 76, Number 217 (Wednesday, November 9, 2011)]
[Pages 69758-69760]
From the Federal Register Online via the Government Printing Office [www.gpo.gov]
[FR Doc No: 2011-28999]



Fish and Wildlife Service

[FWS-R5-ES-2011-N182; 50120-1112-0000-F2]

Draft Environmental Assessment, Incidental Take Plan, and 
Application for an Incidental Take Permit; Maine Department of Inland 
Fisheries and Wildlife's Statewide Furbearer Trapping Program

AGENCY: Fish and Wildlife Service, Interior.

ACTION: Notice of availability; announcement of public meeting.


SUMMARY: We, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (Service), have 
received an application from the Maine Department of Inland Fisheries 
and Wildlife (MDIFW) for an incidental take permit under the Endangered 
Species Act of 1973, as amended (ESA). We are considering issuing a 15-
year permit to the applicant that would authorize take of the federally 
threatened Canada lynx incidental to otherwise lawful activities 
associated with MDIFW's Statewide furbearer trapping program. Pursuant 
to the ESA and the National Environmental Policy Act, we announce the 
availability of MDIFW's incidental take permit application and draft 
incidental take plan (ITP), as well as the Service's draft 
environmental assessment (EA), for public review and comment. We 
provide this notice to seek comments from the public and Federal, 
Tribal, State, and local governments.

DATES: Comment Period: To ensure consideration, we must receive your 
written comments by January 9, 2012.
    Meetings: We will hold three public information sessions to educate 
the public about MDIFW's proposal, the Service's permitting process, 
and the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) process. Each session 
will be from 5 to 9 p.m. and have information tables, presentations by 
the agencies, and opportunities for discussion and written comments. 
These meetings are not formal public hearings. Formal public comments 
will need to be submitted in written form.
    The dates and locations of the meetings will be:
    December 13: University of Maine at Presque Isle, 181 Maine Street, 
Presque Isle, 04769 (Grand Ballroom-Allagash and Aroostook rooms) (207) 
    December 14 at Black Bear Inn, 4 Godfrey Drive, Orono, 04473 (207) 
    December 15: University of Southern Maine in Gorham, 37 College 
Avenue, Gorham, 04038 (Bailey Hall) (207) 780-5961.

Information about these meetings will also posted on the Service's 
Maine Field Office's (MEFO's) Web site at http://www.fws.gov/mainefieldoffice/index.html or is available by calling (207) 866-3344.

ADDRESSES: Send comments by U.S. mail to Attn: Lynx HCP, Laury Zicari, 
Field Supervisor, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, Maine Field Office, 
17 Godfrey Drive Suite 2, Orono, ME 04473, or via email to 

SUPPLEMENTARY INFORMATION: We received an application from the Maine 
Department of Inland Fisheries and Wildlife (MDIFW) for an incidental 
take permit to take the federally threatened Canada lynx (Lynx 
canadensis) in conjunction with Maine's furbearer trapping program. A 
conservation program to minimize and mitigate for the incidental take 
would be implemented by MDIFW as described in their draft incidental 
take plan (ITP).
    We prepared a draft environmental assessment (EA) to comply with 
NEPA (43 U.S.C. 4321 et seq.). The draft EA describes the proposed 
action and possible alternatives, and analyzes the effects of the 
alternatives on the human environment. We will evaluate whether the 
proposed action (Maine's draft ITP and associated avoidance, 
minimization, and mitigation measures) and other alternatives in the 
draft EA are adequate to support a finding of no significant impact 
(FONSI) under NEPA, and we will also determine whether the draft ITP 
meets the issuance criteria under section 10(a)(1)(A) of the ESA (16 
U.S.C. 1531 et seq.). We are not identifying a preferred alternative, 
nor making a FONSI determination at this time. We are requesting 
comments on MDIFW's draft ITP and our preliminary analyses in the draft 
EA. Under Summary of Areas to Focus on in Public Review of MDIFW's 
Draft Incidental Take Plan, we have highlighted areas where public 
input would be particularly valuable.

Availability of Documents

    The draft ITP and draft EA are available on the MEFO Web site at: 
http://www.fws.gov/mainefieldoffice/index.html. Alternatively, copies 
of the draft ITP and draft EA will be available for public review 
during regular business hours at MEFO (see ADDRESSES). Those who do not 
have access to the Web site or cannot visit our office can request 
copies by telephone at (207) 866-3344, or by letter to MEFO/Attn: Lynx 
HCP (see ADDRESSES). Those with computer access will be provided with a 
compact disk or paper copies.


    Section 9 of the ESA (16 U.S.C. 1531 et seq.) and its implementing 
regulations prohibit the ``take'' of animal species listed as 
endangered or threatened. Take is defined under the ESA as to ``harass, 
harm, pursue, hunt, shoot, wound, kill, trap, capture, or collect 
listed animal species, or to attempt to engage in such conduct'' (16 
U.S.C. 1538). However, under section 10(a) of the ESA, we may issue 
permits to authorize incidental take of listed species. ``Incidental 
take'' is defined by the ESA as take that is incidental to, and not the 
purpose of, carrying out an otherwise lawful activity. Regulations 
governing incidental take permits for threatened and endangered 
species, respectively, are found in the Code of Federal Regulations (50 
CFR 17.22 and 17.32).

[[Page 69759]]

    If an incidental take permit is granted to the MDIFW, the State and 
licensed trappers conducting otherwise legal trapping activities 
Statewide would be authorized to incidentally take Canada lynx 
according to limitations prescribed in the draft ITP, along with any 
additional conditions the Service determines are necessary and 
appropriate for issuance of an incidental take permit. MDIFW seeks an 
incidental take permit for a potential of 195 lynx for 15 years from 
permit issuance. Take, as defined by the ESA, could occur in the 
following ways: Harassing, harming, trapping, capturing, collecting, 
wounding, or killing. Not all take during the 15 years would cause 
mortality. Of the lynx requested to be taken, MDIFW anticipates that 
all would be trapped, captured, or collected; up to 187 would be harmed 
or harassed and released with minor injury; up to 3 could have severe 
injuries requiring rehabilitation; and up to 5 could be killed (3 
adults and 2 kittens indirectly killed because their mother was killed 
in a trap).
    The MDIFW draft ITP proposes various measures to minimize and 
mitigate the effects of take of Canada lynx. This includes the 
retention or adoption of trapping rules and regulations, maintaining a 
lynx reporting phone hotline, developing a protocol for evaluating 
injured lynx, educating trappers, and improving traps. In addition, 
MDIFW proposes to compensate for five lynx mortalities by creating or 
managing 5,000 acres of lynx habitat on areas managed by Maine Bureau 
of Parks and Lands.
    MDIFW's proposed action consists of the continuation of the 
Statewide trapping program and implementation of the draft ITP. We have 
determined that MDIFW's application facially satisfies the statutory 
and regulatory permit application submission criteria (16 U.S.C. 
10(a)(2)(A) and 50 CFR 17.32(b)(1)(iii)). We seek your input on the 
content of the application as we assess it relative to the incidental 
take permit issuance criteria (16 U.S.C. 10(a)(2)(B) and 50 CFR 

Summary of Areas To Focus on in Public Review of MDIFW's Draft 
Incidental Take Plan

    The MDIFW's obligation is to minimize and mitigate impacts to the 
maximum extent practicable. The determination of projected take in the 
draft ITP was based in part on past incidences of reported take of 
lynx; however, there is evidence that not all lynx trapped are 
reported. To analyze the full extent of impacts of the proposed action 
on lynx, and to ensure that the mitigation is commensurate with the 
level of impacts, an accurate assessment of all lynx taken in traps is 
required. The Service requests any information on the extent of 
trapping of lynx that is not reported.
    The Service further requests information on the use and 
practicability of current State trapping regulations and their 
effectiveness in avoiding trapping of lynx. The Service notes that 
since submission of the draft ITP, MDIFW has incorporated several 
changes to their trapping regulations that may benefit lynx but are not 
reflected in the current proposal. Specifically, the Service would like 
feedback as to whether these regulations are easily understood and 
implemented by trappers and are effective in eliminating take of lynx. 
The Service also seeks input on whether there are different trapping 
methods that could be more effective in avoiding trapping of lynx.
    MDIFW proposes conservation of 5,000 acres of lynx mitigation land. 
Further details are needed regarding the timing for completing the 
mitigation actions; location and quality of habitat; other uses that 
would be allowed on the lynx mitigation land; which management measures 
will be employed; how management will be secured; and how enforceable 
management requirements would be over the life of the incidental take 
permit. The Service seeks comments on the adequacy of mitigation 
offered and whether there are additional means to compensate for lynx 
    Incidental take projections were made assuming that lynx 
populations remain at early 2000s levels (at least 500 lynx). We seek 
input as to whether the population models in the draft ITP accurately 
portray future population trends and adequately assess the effects of 
incidental trapping. In addition, we seek input on the adequacy and 
accuracy of the models used in the draft ITP.
    The draft ITP addresses uncertainty in changed circumstances but 
does not contain specific adaptive management strategies. Thus, we seek 
input on whether there are additional measures or monitoring that could 
be put in place to provide better information on changes in trapper 
effort, changes in the range of lynx population, unanticipated lynx 
behavior, changing lynx habitat, and changing lynx populations.
    Harm and harassment to lynx are forms of take identified in the 
draft ITP. We are particularly interested in whether there is 
information in addition to that provided in the draft ITP concerning 
the nature or injury and survival of incidentally trapped lynx or other 
furbearers. What percentage of trapped lynx are injured? How does 
trapping affect their survival? Are critical lynx behaviors affected by 
the trapping experience?
    Compensatory mitigation in the draft ITP is proposed only for the 
five lynx mortalities; nonlethal take is not currently addressed. We 
are interested in suggestions for additional practicable measures to 
minimize and mitigate to the maximum extent practicable the full range 
of types of take. We also request input on other forms of mitigation 
that are offered in the ITP, including lynx research, management 
agreements with forest landowners, planning documents, and trapper 
education and outreach.
    The most effective and useful comments are substantive. Substantive 
comments raise specific issues or concerns about the ITP and the draft 
EA, as well as supportive data or references. Comments merely providing 
support for or opposition to the ITP and EA will not be useful.

National Environmental Policy Act

    In compliance with NEPA of 1969, we analyzed the impacts of 
implementing the draft ITP, issuance of the permit, and a reasonable 
range of alternatives. Based on this analysis and any new information 
resulting from public comment on the proposed action, we will determine 
if there would be any significant impacts or effects caused by issuing 
the incidental take permit. We have prepared a draft EA on this 
proposed action and have made it available for public inspection in 
person at MEFO (see ADDRESSES section).
    NEPA requires that a range of reasonable alternatives to the 
proposed action be described. We developed the draft EA between 
November 2008 and May 2010. The draft EA analyzes five alternatives, 
each having a suite of conservation measures to minimize and mitigate 
take of lynx. We designed the alternatives based on discussions with 
Service experts and staff; scientific, trapping, and management 
experts; and MDIFW. We evaluated a no-action alternative (i.e., not 
issuing an incidental take permit), MDIFW's proposed ITP, two other 
alternatives comprised of multiple minimization and mitigation 
measures, and a fifth alternative in which upland trapping in northern 
Maine would be discontinued.
    Although we attempted to fully develop alternatives, we believe 
there could be expertise among trappers and non-trappers that may 
provide other minimization and mitigation measures in addition to those 
in the draft ITP and the draft EA. We are seeking public input on the 
draft EA to determine

[[Page 69760]]

whether there is additional information not in the draft ITP and draft 
EA that could better inform the decision making process.
    In the draft EA, we attempted to quantify the incidental take of 
non-target wildlife (species other than lynx) in traps. We are 
particularly interested in whether there is information in addition to 
that provided in the draft EA concerning the prevalence of incidental 
take of non-target wildlife in traps. Which species are most frequently 
caught in Maine? What percent of these animals are injured or killed, 
and does incidental trapping have population-level affects?
    At this time, there is no draft Implementing Agreement (IA) 
associated with the draft ITP. The purpose of an IA is to ensure proper 
implementation of each of the terms and conditions of the final ITP and 
to describe the applicable remedies and recourse should any party fail 
to perform its obligations, responsibilities, and tasks. We may elect 
to develop an IA with MDIFW once any necessary changes to the draft ITP 
have been made.

Public Comments

    The Service invites the public to comment on the draft ITP and 
draft EA during a 60-day public comment period (see DATES). All 
comments received, including names and addresses, will become part of 
the administrative record. Before including your address, phone number, 
electronic 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 may request at the top of your document that we 
withhold your personal identifying information from public review, we 
cannot guarantee that we will be able to do so.


    This notice is provided pursuant to section 10(c) of the ESA (16 
U.S.C. 1531 et seq.) and NEPA regulations (40 CFR 1506.6).

    Dated: September 2, 2011.
Wendi Weber,
Acting Regional Director, Northeast Region.
[FR Doc. 2011-28999 Filed 11-8-11; 8:45 am]