[Federal Register Volume 77, Number 122 (Monday, June 25, 2012)]
[Pages 37917-37918]
From the Federal Register Online via the Government Printing Office [www.gpo.gov]
[FR Doc No: 2012-15385]



Fish and Wildlife Service

[FWS-R2-ES-2012-N091; FXES11150200000F4-123-FF02ENEH00]

Draft Candidate Conservation Agreement With Assurances and Draft 
Environmental Assessment; Lesser Prairie Chicken, Oklahoma

AGENCY: Fish and Wildlife Service, Interior.

ACTION: Notice of availability; request for comment.


SUMMARY: The Oklahoma Department of Wildlife Conservation (ODWC) 
(Applicant) has applied for an enhancement of survival permit pursuant 
to Section 10(a)(1)(A) of the Endangered Species Act of 1973, as 
amended. The permit application includes a draft Candidate Conservation 
Agreement with Assurances (CCAA) between the U.S. Fish and Wildlife 
Service (Service) and ODWC for the lesser prairie-chicken (LEPC) in 10 
Oklahoma counties. If the LEPC becomes listed in the future, the 
Enhancement of Survival permit will become effective, authorizing 
incidental take of LEPCs resulting from ongoing, otherwise lawful 
activities on enrolled lands. The draft CCAA and the draft

[[Page 37918]]

Environmental Assessment are available for public review, and we seek 
public comment on the potential issuance of the above permits.

DATES: To ensure consideration, please send your written comments by 
August 24, 2012.

ADDRESSES: Persons wishing to review the application, the draft CCAA, 
the draft EA, or other related documents may obtain copies by written 
or telephone request to Field Supervisor, Oklahoma Ecological Services 
Field Office, 918-581-7458 (U.S. mail address below). Electronic copies 
of these documents are available for review on the Service Lesser 
Prairie Chicken Web site: http://www.fws.gov/southwest/es/LPC.html. The 
application and related documents will be available for public 
inspection, by appointment only, during normal business hours (8 a.m. 
to 4:30 p.m.) at the Oklahoma Ecological Services Field Office at the 
address below.
    Comments concerning the application, the draft CCAA, the draft EA, 
or other related documents should be submitted in writing, by one of 
the following methods:
    Email: lesserprairiechicken@fws.gov.
    U.S. mail: Field Supervisor, Oklahoma Ecological Services Field 
Office, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, 9014 E. 21st St., Tulsa, OK 
    Please refer to Permit number TE72923A-0 when submitting comments. 
Please specify if comments are in reference to the draft CCAA, draft 
EA, or both.

FOR FURTHER INFORMATION CONTACT: Dixie Porter at the U.S. Fish and 
Wildlife Service, Oklahoma Ecological Services Field Office (address 

SUPPLEMENTARY INFORMATION: With the assistance of the Service, the 
Applicant proposes to implement conservation measures for the LEPC by 
removing threats to the survival of these species and protecting their 
habitat. The proposed CCAA would be in effect for 25 years in Alfalfa, 
Beaver, Beckham, Cimarron, Custer, Dewey, Ellis, Harper, Roger Mills, 
Texas, Washita, Woods, and Woodward counties, Oklahoma. This area 
constitutes the CCAA's Planning Area, with Covered Areas being eligible 
non-federal lands within the Planning Area that provide suitable 
habitat for LEPC, or have the potential to provide suitable LEPC 
habitat with the implementation of conservation management practices. 
The CCAA is in addition to a larger conservation effort for the LEPC 
across its range within Texas, Oklahoma, Colorado, Kansas, and New 
Mexico. The CCAA has been developed in support of a section 10(a)(1)(A) 
enhancement of survival permit.
    If approved, participants who are fully implementing the CCAA 
provisions of the enhancement of survival permit will be provided 
assurances that, should the LEPC be listed, the Service will not 
require them to provide additional land, water, or financial resources, 
nor will there be any further restrictions to their land, water, or 
financial resources than they committed to under the CCAA provisions 
(50 CFR 17.22(d) and 17.32(d)). Furthermore, if the LEPC is listed, 
participants would be provided incidental take authorization under the 
enhancement of survival permit, through certificates of inclusion, for 
the level of incidental take on the enrolled lands consistent with the 
activities under the CCAA provisions.


    The LEPC currently occurs in five states: Colorado, Kansas, New 
Mexico, Oklahoma, and Texas. The species inhabits rangelands dominated 
primarily by shinnery oak-bluestem and sand sagebrush-bluestem 
vegetation types. Major factors affecting the status of the LEPC are 
habitat fragmentation, overutilization by domestic livestock, oil and 
gas development, wind energy development, loss of native rangelands to 
cropland conversion, herbicide use, fire suppression, and drought. In 
1998, the Service determined that listing of the LEPC was warranted but 
precluded because of other higher priority species. The December 2008, 
Candidate Notice of Review elevated the listing priority of the LEPC 
from an ``8'' to a ``2'' because the overall magnitude of threats to 
the LEPC were increasing and occurring throughout almost all of the 
currently occupied range.
    The CCAA was initiated in order to facilitate conservation and 
restoration of the LEPC on private and State trust lands in Oklahoma. 
Expected conservation benefits for LEPC from implementation of the 
conservation measures in this CCAA will be recognized through improved 
population performance. Specifically, this will entail expected 
increases in adult and juvenile survivorship, nest success, and 
recruitment rates.
    Furthermore, LEPC conservation will be enhanced by providing ESA 
regulatory assurances for participating property owners. There will be 
a measure of security for participating landowners in the knowledge 
that they will not incur additional land use restrictions if the 
species is listed under the ESA. The CCAA will provide benefits to LEPC 
by providing technical assistance to landowners in managing lesser 
prairie-chicken habitat. Through participation landowners may be 
assisted with securing potential state and federal funding for applying 
best management practices and conservation measures on their property 
to protect and enhance LEPC habitat, which should sustain and improve 
population performance (i.e., increased population numbers, increased 
survival, reduced mortality, expansion of occupied range). The 
Applicant has committed to guiding the implementation of the CCAA and 
requests issuance of the enhancement of survival permit in order to 
address the take prohibitions of section 9 of the Act should the 
species become listed in the future.
    The draft CCAA and application for the enhancement of survival 
permit are not eligible for categorical exclusion under the National 
Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) of 1969. A draft Environmental 
Assessment has been prepared to further analyze the direct, indirect, 
and cumulative impacts of the CCAA on the quality of the human 
environment and other natural resources.

Public Availability of Comments

    All comments we receive become part of the public record. Requests 
for copies of comments will be handled in accordance with the Freedom 
of Information Act, NEPA, and Service and Department of the Interior 
policies and procedures. Before including your address, phone number, 
email 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 to withhold your personal identifying 
information from public review, we cannot guarantee we will be able to 
do so.


    We provide this notice under section 10(c) of the Act (16 U.S.C. 
1531 et seq.) and its implementing regulations (50 CFR 17.22 and 
17.32), and the National Environmental Policy Act (42 U.S.C. 4371 et 
seq.) and its implementing regulations (40 CFR 1506.6).

Benjamin N. Tuggle,
Regional Director, Region 2, Albuquerque, New Mexico.
[FR Doc. 2012-15385 Filed 6-22-12; 8:45 am]