[Federal Register Volume 79, Number 10 (Wednesday, January 15, 2014)]
[Pages 2683-2685]
From the Federal Register Online via the Government Printing Office [www.gpo.gov]
[FR Doc No: 2014-00600]



Fish and Wildlife Service

[FWS-R1-ES-2013-N284; FXES11120100000-145-FF01E00000]

Draft Programmatic Candidate Conservation Agreement With 
Assurances for the Greater Sage-Grouse in Harney County, Oregon and 
Draft Environmental Assessment

AGENCY: Fish and Wildlife Service, Interior.

ACTION: Notice of receipt; Notice of availability; Request for 


SUMMARY: We, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (Service), have 
received an application from the Harney Soil and Water Conservation 
District (SWCD) for an enhancement of survival (EOS) permit under 
section 10(a)(1)(A) of the Endangered Species Act of 1973, as amended 
(ESA). The permit application includes a draft programmatic candidate 
conservation agreement with assurances (CCAA) between the SWCD and the 
Service for the greater sage-grouse (Centrocercus urophasianus) in 
Harney County, Oregon. The Service and SWCD prepared the programmatic 
CCAA to provide ranchers and farmers in Harney County with the 
opportunity to voluntarily conserve the greater sage-grouse and its 
habitat while carrying out ranch and farm operations. The Service also 
announces the availability of a draft environmental assessment (EA) 
that has been prepared in response to the permit application in 
accordance with requirements of the National Environmental Policy Act 
(NEPA). We are making the draft CCAA and draft EA available for public 
review and comment.

DATES: To ensure consideration, please send your written comments by 
February 14, 2014.

ADDRESSES: To request further information or submit written comments, 
please use one of the following methods, and note that your information 
request or comments are in reference to the Harney SWCD CCAA:
     Internet: Documents may be viewed on the Internet at 
     Email: FW1HarneySWCDCCAA@fws.gov. Include ``Harney SWCD 
CCAA'' in the subject line of the message or comments.
     U.S. Mail: U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, Bend Field 
Office, 63095 Deschutes Market Road, Bend, Oregon 97701.
     In-Person Viewing or Pickup: Documents will be available 
for public inspection by appointment during normal business hours at 
the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service's Bend Field Office, 63095 Deschutes 
Market Road, Bend, Oregon 97701; and at the Harney Soil and Water 
Conservation District Office, 530 Hwy 20 South, Hines, Oregon.
     Fax: Bend Field Office, 541-383-7638, Attn.: Harney SWCD 

FOR FURTHER INFORMATION CONTACT: Nancy Gilbert or Angela Sitz, Bend 
Field Office (see ADDRESSES), telephone: 541-383-7146. If you use a 
telecommunications device for the deaf, please call the Federal 
Information Relay Service at 800-877-8339.



    Private and other non-Federal property owners are encouraged to 
enter into CCAAs, in which they voluntarily undertake management 
activities on their properties to enhance, restore, or maintain habitat 
benefiting species that are proposed for listing under the ESA, 
candidates for listing, or species that may become candidates or 
proposed for listing. Through a CCAA and its associated EOS permit the 
Service provides assurances to property owners that they will not be 
subjected to increased land use restrictions if the covered species 
become listed under the ESA in the future, provided certain conditions 
are met. Application requirements and issuance criteria for enhancement 
of survival permits for CCAAs are found in the Code of Regulations 
(CFR) at 50 CFR 17.22(d) and 17.32(d), respectively. See also our joint 
policy on CCAAs, which we published in the Federal Register with

[[Page 2684]]

the Department of Commerce's National Oceanic and Atmospheric 
Administration, National Marine Fisheries Service (64 FR 32726; June 
17, 1999).
    On March 23, 2010, the Service determined that listing the greater 
sage-grouse under the ESA (16 U.S.C. 1538) was warranted, but precluded 
by the need to address higher priority species first. In anticipation 
of a listing decision by the Service, the SWCD established the Harney 
County Greater Sage-Grouse Candidate Conservation Agreement with 
Assurances Steering Committee (Steering Committee) and requested 
assistance from the Service in developing a greater sage-grouse 
conservation strategy for ranch and land management activities that 
could offer landowners assurances that their ranch and farm practices 
could continue in the event this species was listed under the ESA. The 
Steering Committee is comprised of local private landowners and 
representatives from the SWCD, the Service, Natural Resources 
Conservation Service, Bureau of Land Management, Oregon Department of 
Fish and Wildlife, Oregon Department of State Lands, Oregon State 
University Extension, Eastern Oregon Agricultural Research Center, The 
Nature Conservancy, and the Harney County Court. The Service, in 
coordination with the SWCD and the Steering Committee, developed the 
draft programmatic CCAA. The intent of the CCAA is to use voluntary, 
proactive conservation measures to reduce or remove threats to the 
greater sage-grouse in Harney County, thereby potentially reducing the 
need to list the species.

Proposed Action

    The Service proposes to approve the CCAA and to issue an EOS permit 
to Harney SWCD for incidental take of greater sage-grouse caused by 
covered activities, if permit issuance criteria are met. The proposed 
CCAA covers an area of approximately 1.1 million acres of privately 
owned lands within the range of the greater sage-grouse in Harney 
County, Oregon. The CCAA covers numerous activities associated with 
ranching, farming and some irrigated agriculture. The CCAA contains a 
comprehensive list of conservation measures designed to avoid or 
minimize potential threats to the greater sage-grouse on private 
rangelands. The proposed term of the CCAA and EOS permit is 30 years.
    The CCAA is programmatic in nature. A private landowner who wishes 
to enroll in the CCAA would develop, in coordination with the SWCD, a 
site-specific plan (SSP) for the property to be enrolled. The SWCD 
would assist the landowner in selecting appropriate conservation 
measures from the CCAA for their SSP that would address specific 
threats to the greater sage-grouse associated with their property and 
operations. If their SSP is approved by the Service and the SWCD, the 
landowner would receive coverage under the EOS permit, through a 
Certificate of Inclusion, for take of the greater sage-grouse 
incidental to conservation and ranching and farming activities, should 
the species become listed. Take authorization would become effective 
upon listing as long as the enrolled landowner is in compliance with 
the terms and conditions of the permit and the provisions of their SSP.
    Consistent with our CCAA Policy (64 FR 32726), the conservation 
goal of the proposed CCAA is to encourage enhancement and protection of 
greater sage-grouse habitat on non-Federal lands by either maintaining 
or modifying existing land uses so that they are consistent with the 
conservation needs of the greater sage-grouse. We can meet this 
conservation goal with the use of a CCAA by giving non-Federal 
landowners incentives to implement conservation measures, primarily 
through regulatory certainty concerning land-use restrictions that 
might otherwise apply should the greater sage-grouse become listed 
under the ESA.

National Environmental Policy Act Compliance

    The development of the CCAA and the proposed issuance of an EOS 
permit is a Federal action that triggers the need for compliance with 
the NEPA, as amended (42 U.S.C. 4321 et seq.). We have prepared a draft 
EA to analyze the direct, indirect, and cumulative environmental 
impacts of three alternatives on the quality of the human environment 
and other natural resources:
    Alternative 1 (No Action): Under the No-Action alternative which 
represents current management, there would not be any Service-approved 
CCAA or SSPs and no EOS permit or Certificates of Inclusion addressing 
the greater sage-grouse within Harney County. Thus, conservation 
measures associated with a CCAA to reduce threats to the greater sage-
grouse in Harney County would not be implemented and the regulatory 
assurances associated with an EOS permit, which are a major 
conservation incentive to enrolled landowners, would not be available. 
Ongoing efforts by other local, State, and Federal agencies and 
organizations to conserve the greater sage-grouse would still be in 
place in Harney County, however, the ability to complement and enhance 
these other efforts with a CCAA and EOS permit would not be available.
    Alternative 2 (Landowner-specific CCAAs): Under this alternative, 
landowners would develop individual CCAAs with the Service for the 
greater sage-grouse, and the Service would issue EOS permits on a case 
by case basis, if the permit issuance criteria are met, to each 
landowner interested in conserving the greater sage-grouse. Developing 
individual CCAAs without the guidance provided in a programmatic CCAA 
would be more expensive and time consuming for landowners and the 
Service due to the need to prepare separate ESA and NEPA compliance 
documents and procedures for each CCAA.
    Alternative 3 (Proposed Action): The proposed action alternative is 
issuance of an EOS permit to the SWCD if the permit issuance criteria 
are met, and the implementation of the programmatic CCAA. The 
programmatic CCAA provides a streamlined process for non-Federal 
landowners to voluntarily complete SSPs and be issued a Certificate of 
Inclusion to receive coverage under the EOS permit that would be issued 
to the SWCD.

Public Comments

    You may submit your comments and materials by one of the methods 
listed in the ADDRESSES section. We specifically request information, 
views, and opinions from the public on our proposed Federal permit 
action, including identification of any other affected aspects of the 
human environment not already identified in the draft EA pursuant to 
NEPA regulations at 40 CFR 1506.6. Further, we specifically solicit 
information regarding the adequacy of the CCAA pursuant to the 
requirements for permits at 50 CFR parts 13 and 17.

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, as well as supporting documentation we use in preparing the

[[Page 2685]]

EA, will be available for public inspection by appointment, during 
normal business hours, at our Bend Field Office (see ADDRESSES).

Next Steps

    After completion of the EA based on consideration of public 
comments on the draft EA, we will determine whether adoption of the 
proposed CCAA warrants a finding of no significant impact or whether an 
environmental impact statement should be prepared. We will evaluate the 
proposed CCAA as well as any comments we receive on it, to determine 
whether the CCAA would meet the requirements for an EOS permit under 
section 10(a)(1)(A) of the ESA. We will also evaluate whether issuance 
of an EOS permit would comply with section 7 of the ESA by conducting 
an intra-Service section 7 consultation on the proposed permit action. 
We will consider the results of this consultation, in combination with 
the above findings, in our final analysis to determine whether or not 
to issue an EOS permit to the SWCD. The final NEPA and permit decisions 
will not be completed until after the end of the 30-day comment period 
on this notice, and will fully consider all comments received during 
the comment period.
    If we determine that the permit issuance requirements are met, the 
Service would issue an EOS permit to the SWCD. The SWCD would then 
begin processing applications from interested landowners to develop 
SSPs that meet the terms and conditions established in the CCAA to 
receive coverage for the incidental take of the greater sage-grouse. If 
the SSP is consistent with the CCAA, the Service will issue a letter of 
concurrence to the SWCD approving the SSP, and the SWCD and landowner 
may then sign a Certificate of Inclusion.


    We provide this notice in accordance with the requirements of 
section 10 of the ESA (16 U.S.C. 1531 et seq.), and NEPA regulations 
(40 CFR 1501.7, 1506.6, and 1508.22).

    Dated: December 19, 2013.
Hugh Morrison,
Acting Deputy Regional Director, Pacific Region, U.S. Fish and Wildlife 
Service, Portland Oregon.
[FR Doc. 2014-00600 Filed 1-14-14; 8:45 am]