[Federal Register Volume 77, Number 77 (Friday, April 20, 2012)]
[Pages 23743-23745]
From the Federal Register Online via the Government Printing Office [www.gpo.gov]
[FR Doc No: 2012-9664]



Fish and Wildlife Service

[FWS-R1-ES-2012-N081; 10120-1112-0000-F2]

Draft Environmental Impact Statement and Proposed Amendment of 
the Washington Department of Natural Resources Habitat Conservation 
Plan for Forested State Trust Lands

AGENCY: Fish and Wildlife Service, Interior.

ACTION: Notice of intent; announcement of public scoping meetings; 
request for comments.


SUMMARY: We, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (Service), intend to 
conduct public scoping under the National Environmental Policy Act 
(NEPA) to gather information to prepare a Draft Environmental Impact 
Statement (DEIS) in anticipation of receiving an application for an 
Incidental Take Permit (ITP) amendment under section 10 of the 
Endangered Species Act (ESA) from the Washington Department of Natural 
Resources (WDNR) for their 1997 Habitat Conservation Plan (HCP) for 
forested State trust lands. The HCP amendment involves the proposed 
replacement of an interim conservation strategy for the threatened 
marbled murrelet (Brachyramphus marmoratus), which is currently being 
implemented under the HCP, with a long-term conservation strategy. The 
proposed amendment to the HCP and the ITP is exclusively limited to 
consideration of a long-term conservation strategy for the marbled 
murrelet on HCP-covered lands.

DATES: To ensure consideration, please send your written comments by 
May 21, 2012 (see ADDRESSES section).
    Four public scoping meetings will be held to discuss the DEIS, and 
we will accept written comments at these meetings. These meetings will 
be held on the following dates and at the following locations:
    1. April 30, 2012, 6-8 p.m., WDNR, Natural Resource Building, 1st 
Floor, 1111 Washington Street SE., Olympia, WA 98504.
    2. May 3, 2012, 6-8 p.m., WDNR, Northwest Region Office, 919 N. 
Township Street, Sedro Woolley, WA 98284.
    3. May 8, 2012, 6-8 p.m., Wahkikum County Courthouse, Pacific 
Cascade/River Room, 25 River Street, Cathlamet, WA 98612.
    4. May 9, 2012, 6-8 p.m., WDNR, Olympic Region Headquarters, 411 
Tillicum Lane, Forks, WA 98331.

ADDRESSES: All comments concerning the preparation of the DEIS, 
proposed HCP amendment, and the NEPA process may be submitted by one of 
the following methods to WDNR. WDNR will transmit all comments received 
to the Service for review and consideration:
     Email: sepacenter@dnr.wa.gov.
     U.S. Mail: SEPA Responsible Official, Annie Szvetecz, 
Washington Department of Natural Resources, SEPA Center, P.O. Box 
47001, Olympia, WA 98504-7001.

FOR FURTHER INFORMATION CONTACT: Mark Ostwald of the Service at (360) 
753-9564 (phone); Mark_Ostwald@fws.gov (email); or by U.S. mail to the 
U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, Washington Fish and Wildlife Office, 
510 Desmond Dr. SE., Suite 102, Lacey, WA 98503; or, alternatively, 
contact Annie Szvetecz, SEPA Responsible Official, WDNR, at (360) 902-
112 (phone); sepacenter@dnr.wa.gov (email). In addition, information on 
this proposed action is also available at the WDNR's Web site at http://www.dnr.wa.gov/ResearchScience/Topics/TrustLandsHCP/Pages/lm_hcp_marbled_murrelet_main.aspx and the Service's Web site at http://www.fws.gov/wafwo/index.html.


Meeting Location Accommodation

    Persons needing reasonable accommodations in order to attend and 
participate in the public scoping meetings should contact Mark Ostwald 
with the Service or Annie Szvetecz with the WDNR (see FOR FURTHER 
INFORMATION CONTACT above). In order to allow sufficient time to 
process requests, please call no later than one week before the public 
meeting. Information regarding this proposed action is available in 
alternative formats upon request.


    In 1996, the WDNR released their draft HCP for forest management 
activities covering 1.6 million acres of forested State trust lands 
within the range of the northern spotted owl (Strix occidentalis 
caurina) in Washington. A DEIS (dated March 1996) jointly developed by 
the Service, National Marine Fisheries Service, and the WDNR was 
announced in the Federal Register on April 5, 1996 (61 FR 15297). The 
DEIS analyzed reasonable management alternatives, including the HCP. A 
notice of availability for the Final EIS (FEIS) was published in the 
Federal Register on November 1, 1996 (61 FR 56563). On January 30, 
1997, the Service issued an ITP (PRT No. 812521) for the WDNR HCP. The 
Service's ITP decision and the availability of related decision 
documents were announced in the Federal Register on February 27, 1997 
(62 FR 8980).
    The WDNR HCP commits WDNR to developing a long-term conservation 
strategy for the marbled murrelet (HCP IV. 39). However, during 
development of the HCP, it was determined that there was not enough 
scientific information to credibly develop a long-term conservation 
strategy for the marbled murrelet on WDNR lands. For that reason, the 
WDNR developed an interim conservation strategy for the marbled 
murrelet (HCP IV. 39), which is currently being implemented. The 
principal intent of the interim conservation strategy was to locate 
occupied marbled murrelet sites and not foreclose future options for 
long-term conservation of the marbled murrelet on WDNR lands. Briefly, 
the interim marbled murrelet conservation strategy included the 
following: (1) Suitable habitat blocks are identified, with harvest on 
these blocks deferred; (2) habitat relationship studies are undertaken 
to determine the relative importance, based on occupancy, of identified 
habitat blocks; (3) following completion of the habitat relationship 
studies, the lowest quality habitat blocks are made available for 
timber harvest (these areas, in the poorest quality habitats, were 
expected to contain about 5 percent of the murrelet-occupied sites on 
HCP-covered lands); (4) the higher quality habitat blocks identified 
from the habitat relationships study are surveyed for marbled murrelet 
occupancy, and occupied habitat are protected, along with some 
unoccupied habitat; and (5) development of a long-term conservation 
strategy for marbled murrelets is undertaken on WDNR lands.
    For southwest Washington and the Olympic Peninsula, the WDNR has 
completed steps 1 through 4 listed above. For step 5, the WDNR 
contemplated proposing an amendment

[[Page 23744]]

to the WDNR HCP once the long-term conservation strategy for the 
marbled murrelet was submitted to the Service. An amendment to the HCP 
(and the ITP) involves both Federal and State action subject to NEPA 
(42 U.S.C. 4341) and the State Environmental Policy Act (Ch. 43.21C 
RCW; SEPA), respectively. On September 15, 2006, the Service published 
a notice in the Federal Register (71 FR 54515) announcing our intent to 
conduct public scoping for the HCP and ITP amendments in anticipation 
of receiving an application for an ITP amendment from the WDNR. 
However, a proposed HCP amendment was not submitted by the WDNR at that 

Proposed Action

    We are now reinitiating the NEPA scoping process with this Federal 
Register notice. The Service and WDNR have determined it is appropriate 
to prepare the DEIS as joint lead agencies pursuant to our respective 
authorities under NEPA (40 C.F.R. 1501.5) and SEPA (WAC 197-11-944) and 
to reinitiate and expand public scoping due to the passage of time 
since the original scoping notice was issued.
    Unlike the HCP amendment described in the September 15, 2006, 
Federal Register notice (71 FR 54515) that involved a proposed long-
term conservation strategy for the marbled murrelet in southwest 
Washington and the Olympic Peninsula, the long-term conservation 
strategy discussed herein is for all WDNR lands within the range of the 
marbled murrelet. The WDNR and the Service both conclude that adequate 
information is currently available that can inform the proposal at the 
Statewide WDNR scale.
    The WDNR's existing ITP authorizes specific levels and types of 
incidental take of the marbled murrelet. The current ITP was 
principally structured to meet the needs of the interim conservation 
strategy for the marbled murrelet, which the WDNR now desires to 
replace with a long-term strategy. It is possible that the long-term 
conservation strategy may warrant a revision of the ITP to address 
additional incidental take of the marbled murrelet not previously 
authorized. Accordingly, the level of take, general locations of 
potential incidental take, timing of incidental take, minimization and 
mitigation strategies, enhancement activities, and research and 
monitoring plans will be described in the long-term conservation 
strategy for the marbled murrelet and in the DEIS.
    In order for the Service to evaluate WDNR's request for an ITP 
amendment, the WDNR must submit the proposed long-term conservation 
strategy for the marbled murrelet to the Service for analysis. The 
Service will ultimately determine whether the WDNR HCP, as amended by 
the long-term conservation strategy for the marbled murrelet, satisfies 
the ESA section 10 permit issuance criteria and other applicable laws 
and/or regulations.
    In 2008, the WDNR released a technical report entitled 
Recommendations and Supporting Analysis of Conservation Opportunities 
for the Marbled Murrelet Long-Term Conservation Strategy (http://www.dnr.wa.gov/Publications/lm_mamu_sci_team_report.pdf) (Report). 
This Report was developed by an interagency scientific team of marbled 
murrelet experts and focused on marbled murrelet conservation in 
southwest Washington and the Olympic Peninsula. The Report: 
Characterized marbled murrelet ecology and life history, recommended 
landscape conservation approaches for WDNR lands, described marbled 
murrelet habitat assessment methods, reported marbled murrelet habitat 
assessment results, and described adaptive management concepts. The 
Report provided recommendations and analysis for the WDNR and the 
Service to consider while the WDNR develops a long-term conservation 
strategy for the marbled murrelet on the lands it manages.

Statutory Requirements

    Section 9 of the ESA (16 U.S.C. 1538) and implementing regulations 
prohibit the taking of animal species listed as endangered or 
threatened. The term ``take'' is defined under the ESA (16 U.S.C. 
1532(19)) to mean ``harass, harm, pursue, hunt, shoot, wound, kill, 
trap, capture, or collect, or to attempt to engage in any such 
conduct.'' ``Harm'' is defined by the Service to include significant 
habitat modification or degradation where it actually kills or injures 
listed species by significantly impairing essential behavioral 
patterns, including breeding, feeding, and sheltering (50 CFR 17.3). 
``Harass'' is defined by the Service as actions that create the 
likelihood of injury to listed species to such an extent as to 
significantly disrupt normal behavior patterns which include, but are 
not limited to, breeding, feeding or sheltering (50 CFR 17.3).
    Section 10 of the ESA and implementing regulations specify 
requirements for the issuance of ITPs to non-Federal landowners for the 
incidental take of endangered and threatened species. Such take must be 
incidental to otherwise lawful activities, not appreciably reduce the 
likelihood of the survival and recovery of the species in the wild, and 
the impacts of the take on the listed species must be minimized and 
mitigated by the permittee to the maximum extent practicable. An 
applicant for an ITP must prepare a HCP describing the impacts that 
will likely result from such taking, the conservation program for 
minimizing and mitigating those take impacts, the funding available to 
implement the conservation program, the alternatives considered by the 
applicant to avoid such taking, and the reason(s) such alternatives are 
not being implemented.
    NEPA requires that Federal agencies conduct an environmental 
analysis of their proposed actions to determine if the actions may 
significantly affect the human environment. Under NEPA, a reasonable 
range of alternatives to a proposed action is developed and considered 
in the Federal agency's environmental review. Alternatives considered 
for analysis in an EIS such as the one contemplated herein may include: 
Variations in the location, amount, and type of conservation; 
variations in the amount of active forest management; adaptive 
management and variations in adaptive management; variations in permit 
duration; or a combination of these elements and others, and no action. 
In addition, an EIS will identify any potentially significant direct, 
indirect, and cumulative impacts on biological resources, land use, air 
quality, water quality, water resources, socioeconomics, and other 
environmental issues that could occur with the implementation of the 
proposed action and alternatives. For potentially significant impacts, 
the EIS may identify avoidance, minimization, or mitigation measures to 
reduce these impacts, where feasible, to a level below significance.

Scoping Meetings

    See DATES above for the dates, times and locations of the public 
scoping meetings for development of a DEIS for amending the WDNR HCP 
and ITP. The purpose of the scoping process is to seek the public's 
views regarding the appropriate range of alternatives that should be 
analyzed in the DEIS, the need, purpose, and objectives of the 
proposal, the impacts that should be considered, and existing 
environmental information relevant to the analysis. The scoping 
meetings will allocate time for presentations by the Service and the 
WDNR, followed by informal questions and discussions. To ensure that a 
full range of issues related to the anticipated amendment are 
identified, we

[[Page 23745]]

encourage written comments from interested parties.

Public Comments

    The primary purpose of the scoping process is for the public to 
assist the Service and WDNR in developing the DEIS by identifying 
important issues and alternatives related to WDNR's proposed HCP 
amendment. To constructively guide the development of the DEIS, the 
WDNR and Service jointly identified the Need, Purpose, and Objectives 
of the proposed action to be consistent with those of the current WDNR 
HCP as follows:
     Need: To obtain long-term certainty for timber harvest and 
other management activities on forested State trust lands and to 
contribute to long-term conservation for the marbled murrelet, 
consistent with commitments in the 1997 Habitat Conservation Plan.
     Purpose: To develop a long-term habitat conservation 
strategy for marbled murrelets on forested State trust lands in the six 
west-side planning units, subject to DNR's fiduciary responsibility to 
the trust beneficiaries as defined by law and the Service's 
responsibilities under the ESA.
    1. Trust Mandate: Generate revenue and other benefits for each 
trust by meeting DNR's trust responsibilities, including: Making trust 
property productive, preserving the corpus of the trust, exercising 
reasonable care and skill in managing the trust, acting prudently with 
respect to trust property, acting with undivided loyalty to trust 
beneficiaries, and acting impartially with respect to current and 
future trust beneficiaries.
    2. Marbled Murrelet Habitat: Provide forest conditions in strategic 
locations on forested trust lands that minimize and mitigate incidental 
take of marbled murrelet resulting from DNR's forest management 
activities. In accomplishing this objective, we expect to make a 
significant contribution to maintaining and protecting marbled murrelet 
    3. Active Management: Promote active, innovative and sustainable 
management on the forested trust land base.
    4. Operational Flexibility: Provide flexibility to respond to new 
information and site-specific conditions.
    5. Implementation Certainty: Adopt feasible, practical, and cost-
effective actions that are likely to be successful and can be sustained 
throughout the life of the HCP.
    The Service requests that comments be specific. In particular, we 
request information regarding:
     Baseline environmental conditions in the plan area;
     Need, Purpose, and Objectives identified above;
     Other possible alternatives that meet the Need, Purpose, 
and Objectives;
     Direct, indirect, and cumulative impacts that 
implementation of a proposed amendment or other alternatives that are 
based upon the Need, Purpose, and Objectives could have on marbled 
murrelets and other species, and their communities and habitats;
     Marbled murrelet ecology;
     Potential adaptive management and/or monitoring 
     Funding issues;
     Other plans or projects that might be relevant to this 
proposed project;
     Minimization and mitigation concepts;
     Any other information pertinent to evaluating the effects 
of the proposed action on the human environment.
    Comments regarding these issues as they relate to management of 
WDNR lands for marbled murrelet conservation should be submitted by one 
of the methods listed in ADDRESSES.
    The WDNR and the Service intend to develop an initial set of 
conceptual alternatives to aid in the assessment of the appropriate 
range of alternatives to be analyzed in the DEIS. The conceptual 
alternatives are intended to broadly describe different approaches to 
the long-term conservation strategy for the marbled murrelet on WDNR 
HCP-covered lands for the purpose of public feedback prior to 
refinement of alternatives in the DEIS. We intend to provide the public 
the opportunity to comment on the initial set of conceptual 
alternatives before completing the selection of the range of 
alternatives that will be formally presented in the DEIS. We do not 
expect to publish a notice in the Federal Register for this 
opportunity. To enable the public to comment on conceptual alternatives 
before the DEIS is published, the Service and the WDNR will announce 
this opportunity on our respective web sites (see FOR FURTHER 
INFORMATION CONTACT) and in other forms of media, and we will also send 
notification to people who respond to this scoping notice, attend our 
public scoping meeting attendees, or requests to be notified.
    The DEIS is expected to be completed and available to the public in 
the winter of 2012. Once the DEIS is prepared, there will be an 
additional opportunity announced for public comment on all aspects and 
content of the DEIS through a Federal Register notice of availability.

Public Availability of Comments

    All comments and materials we receive become part of the public 
record associated with this action. Before including your address, 
phone number, email address, or other personal identifying information 
in your comments, 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. Comments and materials we 
receive will be available for public inspection by appointment, during 
normal business hours, at our office (see FOR FURTHER INFORMATION 


    The environmental review of this proposed action will be conducted 
in accordance with the requirements of NEPA, the Council on 
Environmental Quality Regulations (40 CFR 1500-1508), other applicable 
Federal laws and regulations, and policies and procedures of the 
Service. This notice is being furnished in accordance with 40 CFR 
1501.7 of NEPA to obtain suggestions and information from other 
agencies and the public on the scope of issues and alternatives to be 
addressed in the DEIS.

    Dated: April 2, 2012.
Richard Hannan,
Deputy Regional Director, Pacific Region, U.S. Fish and Wildlife 
Service, Portland, Oregon.
[FR Doc. 2012-9664 Filed 4-19-12; 8:45 am]