[Federal Register Volume 79, Number 120 (Monday, June 23, 2014)]
[Pages 35564-35567]
From the Federal Register Online via the Government Printing Office [www.gpo.gov]
[FR Doc No: 2014-14497]



Fish and Wildlife Service

[Docket No. FWS-R9-MB-2011-0094;FF09M21000-145-FXMB123109EAGLE]

Eagle Permits; Notice of Intent To Prepare an Environmental 
Assessment or an Environmental Impact Statement

AGENCY: Fish and Wildlife Service, Interior.

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


SUMMARY: We, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (Service, us, or we), 
announce five public scoping meetings to inform our decision to prepare 
either an Environmental Assessment (EA) or an Environmental Impact 
Statement (EIS) pursuant to the National Environmental Policy Act 
(NEPA) of 1969, as amended, in conjunction with an evaluation of our 
eagle management objectives. The decision to initially prepare an EA or 
EIS will be, in part, contingent on the complexity of issues identified 
during, and following, the scoping phase of the NEPA process. The 
scoping meetings will provide an opportunity for input from other 
agencies, Tribes, nongovernmental organizations, and the public on the 
scope of the NEPA analysis, the pertinent issues we should address, and 
alternatives we should analyze.

DATES: To ensure consideration of written comments, they must be 
submitted on or before September 22, 2014. See SUPPLEMENTARY 
INFORMATION for the locations and dates of the scoping meetings.

scoping meetings. To obtain additional information about the topics 
that will be presented at the public scoping meetings, go to http://www.eaglescoping.org. You may submit written comments by one of the 
following methods:
    Electronically: Go to the Federal e-Rulemaking Portal: http://www.regulations.gov. Search for FWS-R9-MB-2011-0094, which is the 
docket number for this notice, and follow the directions for submitting 
    By Hard Copy: Submit by U.S. mail to Public Comments Processing, 
Attn: FWS-R9-MB-2011-0094; Division of Policy and Directives 
Management; U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service; 4401 N. Fairfax Drive, MS 
2042-PDM, Arlington, VA 22203.
    Please note in your submission that your comments are in regard to 
Eagle Management and Permitting. We request that you send comments by 
only one of the methods described above. We will post all information 
received on http://www.regulations.gov. This generally means that we 
will post any personal information you provide us (see the Public 
Availability of Comments section below for more information).

FOR FURTHER INFORMATION CONTACT: Eliza Savage, at 703-358-2329 
(telephone), or eliza_savage@fws.gov (email). Individuals who are 
hearing impaired or speech impaired may call the Federal Relay Service 
at 800-877-8337 for TTY assistance. Alternatively, information 
presented at the public scoping meetings can be viewed at http://www.eaglescoping.org.


Public Scoping Meetings

    We will hold informal public informational sessions and present 
currently identified issues at the following dates and times:

1. July 22, 2014: Sacramento, CA, 5 p.m. to 8 p.m., Red Lion Hotel, 
Woodlake Conference Center, 500 Leisure Lane, Sacramento, 95815.
2. July 24, 2014: Minneapolis, MN, 5 p.m. to 8 p.m., DoubleTree 
Bloomington--MSP South, 7800 Normandale Blvd., Bloomington, MN 
3. July 29, 2014: Albuquerque, NM, 5 p.m. to 8 p.m., DoubleTree 
Albuquerque, 201 Marquette Avenue Northwest, Albuquerque NM 87102.
4. July 31, 2014: Denver, CO, 5 p.m. to 8 p.m., Holiday Inn Denver 
Airport, 6900 Tower Rd, Denver, CO 80249.
5. August 7, 2014: Washington, DC, 1 p.m. to 5 p.m., South Interior 
Building, 1951 Constitution Ave NW., Washington, DC 20240.


    The Bald and Golden Eagle Protection Act (16 U.S.C. 668-668d) 
(Eagle Act) prohibits take of bald eagles and golden eagles except 
pursuant to Federal regulations. The Eagle Act regulations at title 50, 
part 22 of the Code of Federal Regulations (CFR), define the ``take'' 
of an eagle to include the following broad range of actions: ``pursue, 
shoot, shoot at, poison, wound, kill, capture, trap, collect, destroy, 
molest, or disturb'' (Sec.  22.3). The Eagle Act allows the Secretary 
of the Interior to authorize certain otherwise prohibited activities 
through regulations. The Secretary is authorized to prescribe 
regulations permitting the ``taking, possession, and transportation of 
[bald eagles or golden eagles] . . . for the scientific or exhibition 
purposes of public museums, scientific societies, and zoological parks, 
or for the religious purposes of Indian tribes, or . . . for the 
protection of wildlife or of agricultural or other interests in any 
particular locality,'' provided such permits are ``compatible with the 
preservation of the bald eagle or the golden eagle'' (16 U.S.C. 668a).
    On September 11, 2009, we published a final rule that established 
two new permit regulations under the Eagle Act (50 FR 46836). One 
permit authorizes take (removal, relocation, or destruction) of eagle 
nests (50 CFR 22.27). The other permit type authorizes nonpurposeful 
take of eagles (50 CFR 22.26). The nonpurposeful eagle take regulations 
provide for permits to take bald eagles and golden eagles where the 
taking is associated with, but not the purpose of, an activity. The 
regulations provide for standard permits, which authorize individual 
instances of take that cannot practicably be avoided, and

[[Page 35565]]

programmatic permits, which authorize recurring take that is 
unavoidable even after implementation of advanced conservation 
practices. We have issued standard permits for commercial and 
residential construction, transportation projects, maintenance of 
utility lines and dams, and in a variety of other circumstances where 
take is expected to occur in a limited timeframe, such as during 
clearing and construction.
    ``Programmatic take'' of eagles is defined at 50 CFR 22.3 as ``take 
that is recurring, is not caused solely by indirect effects, and that 
occurs over the long term or in a location or locations that cannot be 
specifically identified.'' Take that does not reoccur, or that is 
caused solely by indirect effects, such as short-term construction, 
does not require a programmatic permit. For additional explanation of 
programmatic take and programmatic permits, see 74 FR 46841-46843.
    We can issue programmatic permits for disturbance as well as take 
resulting in mortalities, based on implementation of ``advanced 
conservation practices'' developed in coordination with the Service. 
``Advanced conservation practices'' are defined at 50 CFR 22.3 as 
``scientifically supportable measures that are approved by the Service 
and represent the best available techniques to reduce eagle disturbance 
and ongoing mortalities to a level where remaining take is 
unavoidable.'' Most take authorized under Sec.  22.26 to this point has 
been in the form of disturbance; however, permits may authorize lethal 
take that is incidental to an otherwise lawful activity, such as 
mortalities caused by collisions with rotating wind turbines.
    The Eagle Act requires the Service to determine that any take of 
eagles it authorizes is compatible with the preservation of bald eagles 
or golden eagles. In the preamble to the final regulations for eagle 
nonpurposeful take permits, and in the Final Environmental Assessment 
of the regulations, we defined that standard to mean ``consistent with 
the goal of stable or increasing breeding populations'' (74 FR 46838).
    On April 13, 2012, the Service initiated two additional 
rulemakings: (1) A proposed rule (``Duration Rule'') to extend the 
maximum permit tenure for programmatic eagle nonpurposeful take permit 
regulations from 5 to 30 years (77 FR 22267), and (2) an Advance Notice 
of Proposed Rulemaking (ANPR) soliciting input on all aspects of those 
eagle nonpurposeful take regulations (77 FR 22278). The ANPR 
highlighted three issues on which the Service particularly hoped the 
public would comment: Eagle population management objectives, 
compensatory mitigation, and programmatic permit issuance criteria.
    The Duration Rule was finalized on December 9, 2013 (78 FR 73704). 
Under the revised regulations, the maximum term for programmatic 
permits was extended from 5 to 30 years. This change is intended to 
facilitate the responsible development of projects that will be in 
operation for many decades and bring them into compliance with 
statutory mandates protecting eagles. The longer term permits will 
incorporate conditions that provide for adaptive management. Permits 
issued for periods longer than 5 years are available only to applicants 
who commit to implementing adaptive management measures if monitoring 
shows the measures are needed and likely to be effective. The required 
adaptive management measures will be negotiated with the permittee at 
the outset and specified in the terms and conditions of the permit.
    At no more than 5-year intervals from the date a permit is issued, 
permittees must compile a report documenting any fatalities and other 
pertinent information for the project and submit the report to the 
Service. The Service will evaluate each permit to reassess fatality 
rates, effectiveness of measures to reduce take, the appropriate level 
of compensatory mitigation, and eagle population status. Depending on 
the findings of the review, permittees may be required to undertake 
additional conservation measures consistent with the permit. The 
Service will make mortality information from both the annual and the 5-
year compilation report available to the public.

Management Objectives for Bald and Golden Eagles

    The language of the Bald and Golden Eagle Protection Act provides 
flexibility with regard to defining management objectives for bald and 
golden eagles. The management objective directs strategic management 
and monitoring actions and, ultimately, determines what level of 
permitted eagle removal can be allowed.
    We are considering modifying current management objectives for 
eagles, which were established with the 2009 eagle permit regulations 
and Final Environmental Assessment of our regulatory permitting system 
under the Eagle Act. Different management objectives could be set for 
bald and golden eagles. At least four elements may be considered when 
establishing a management objective: (1) The population objective and 
relevant timeframe for it to be met; (2) eagle management units (EMUs), 
or the geographic scale over which permitted take is regulated to meet 
the population objective; (3) whether we also set an upper limit on 
take at a finer scale than the EMU to avoid creating population sinks 
in local breeding populations; and (4) our level of risk tolerance. The 
level of risk tolerance means how much risk the agency is willing to 
take when information is uncertain in carrying out management actions 
(e.g., setting levels of authorized take). For example, when 
information is less certain, a more conservative approach may be 
adopted to avoid unintended outcomes. Alternatively, to provide for 
more flexibility in permitting, the Service could adopt a more risk-
tolerant approach.
    The current management objective, also referred to as the ``Eagle 
Act preservation standard,'' is to manage populations consistent with 
the goal of maintaining stable or increasing breeding populations over 
100 years, which is at least five eagle generations. The scale the 
Service uses to evaluate eagle populations is referred to as eagle 
management units. EMUs for the golden eagle were set at the Bird 
Conservation Region (BCR) level because the only range-wide estimates 
available for the golden eagles are BCR-scale population estimates. To 
establish management populations for bald eagles, we used natal 
populations (eagles within the natal dispersal range of each other) in 
our evaluation in order to look at distribution across the landscape. 
(Natal dispersal refers to the movement between hatching location and 
first breeding or potential breeding location.) Because the populations 
delineated by this approach roughly correspond to the Service's 
Regional organizational structure, we have been managing bald eagles 
based on populations within the eight Service Regions, with some shared 
populations. Estimates of bald and golden eagle population size in each 
EMU were calculated, and EMU-specific estimates of demographic rates 
were used in models to determine rates of authorized take that are 
compatible with maintaining stable breeding populations.
    Under the current management approach, permitted take of bald 
eagles is capped at 5 percent estimated annual productivity for bald 
eagles. Because the Service lacked data to show that golden eagle 
populations could sustain any additional unmitigated mortality at that 
time, we set take thresholds for that species at zero for all regional 
populations. This means that any new authorized ``take'' of golden 
eagles must be at least equally offset by

[[Page 35566]]

compensatory mitigation (specific conservation actions to replace or 
offset project[hyphen]induced losses). For more details and explanation 
about the current eagle management approach, see the 2009 Final 
Environmental Assessment, Proposal to Permit Take as Provided Under the 
Bald and Golden Eagle Protection Act, which can be found at: http://www.fws.gov/migratorybirds/BaldAndGoldenEagleManagement.htm.
    The Service also developed and applies guidance on upper limits of 
take at more local scales to manage cumulative impacts to local 
populations. Under the guidance, the Service must assess take rates 
both for individual projects and for the cumulative effects of other 
human-caused take eagles, at the scale of the local[hyphen]area eagle 
population. The local-area population is the population of eagles 
within the natal dispersal distance. The Service considers this 
distance to represent the geographic area that would provide recruits 
to replenish a local population if permitted take caused a decline in 
the breeding population of eagles around a permitted project. The 
Service identified take rates of between 1 and 5 percent of the total 
estimated local[hyphen]area eagle population as significant, with 5 
percent being at the upper end of what might be appropriate under the 
Eagle Act preservation standard, whether offset by compensatory 
mitigation or not.
    The Service is considering a range of possible alternatives to the 
current management objective. At one end of the spectrum, we could 
adopt a qualitative objective such as ``to not meaningfully impair the 
bald or golden eagle's continued existence.'' Alternatively, we could 
update the current management objective by incorporating newer, 
improved information on eagle movements, population size, and natal 
dispersal distances to revise the EMUs; set explicit numerical 
population objectives in each EMU; and refine the area we consider the 
local scale. We could also adopt an explicit level of risk tolerance 
relative to how much take to allow based on uncertainty in the 
population size estimates.
    The scoping process announced today in this notice will inform our 
eagle management program and our decision to prepare either an EA or an 
Environmental Impact Statement (EIS). Service staff who have been 
implementing the 2009 eagle permit regulations have identified a number 
of priority issues for evaluation during this scoping process, 
including the following: Eagle population management objectives; 
programmatic permit conditions; compensatory mitigation; evaluation of 
the individual and cumulative effects of low-risk (or low-effect) 
permits; and criteria for nest removal permits. For more information 
about these topics visit http://www.eaglescoping.org. In addition to 
these topics, during this scoping process, we invite the public to 
provide input on any aspect of our eagle management program.

Analysis Under the National Environmental Policy Act

    The NEPA analysis will evaluate the environmental effects of a 
range of alternatives for eagle management. We also intend the NEPA 
analysis to:
     Evaluate up-to-date information about the status of bald 
and golden eagle populations;
     Enable the Service to recalculate regional take thresholds 
for both species (if population management will continue to incorporate 
regional take thresholds);
     Analyze the effects of issuing permits to take golden 
eagles and bold eagles throughout the U.S.;
     Further analyze the effects of longer term nonpurposeful 
take permits; and
     Rigorously evaluate the effects of low-risk (low-effect) 
projects to allow for more efficient permitting at the individual 
project level.
    The purpose of the public scoping process with regard to NEPA is to 
determine relevant issues that could influence the scope of the 
environmental analysis, including alternatives, and guide the process 
for developing the EA or EIS and related compliance efforts. Factors 
currently being considered for analysis in the EA or EIS include, but 
are not limited to:
    1. The direct, indirect, and cumulative effects that implementation 
of any reasonable alternative could have on bald and golden eagles, 
migratory birds, other wildlife species, and their habitats;
    2. Direct, indirect, and cumulative effects of projects that are 
likely to take a minimal number of eagles and as such can be classified 
as ``low-risk'' or ``low effect'' and for which permitting at the 
individual project level could be expedited;
    3. Effects to cultural resources;
    4. Potentially significant impacts on biological resources, land 
use, air quality, water quality, water resources, economics, and other 
environmental/historical resources;
    5. Strategies for avoiding, minimizing, and mitigating the impacts 
to eagles, migratory birds, wildlife, and other resources listed above;
    6. Climate change effects; and
    7. Any other environmental issues that should be considered with 
regard to potential alternatives for eagle management.
    The final range of reasonable alternatives and mitigation to be 
analyzed in the draft EA or EIS will be determined in part by the 
comments received during the scoping process. The public will also have 
a chance to review and comment on the draft EA or EIS when it is 
available (a notice of availability will be published in the Federal 

Public Comments

    We are requesting information from other interested government 
agencies, Native American Tribes, the scientific community, industry, 
nongovernmental organizations, and other interested parties.
    You may submit your comments and materials by one of the methods 
described above under ADDRESSES at the beginning of this notice. 
Written comments will also be accepted at the public meetings, although 
these public meetings are primarily intended to provide additional 
information and provide a chance for the public to ask questions.

Public Availability of Comments

    Written comments 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 comment, you should be aware that the 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. All submissions from 
organizations or businesses, and from individuals identifying 
themselves as representatives or officials of organizations or 
businesses, will be made available for public disclosure in their 


U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. 2009. Final Environmental 
Assessment: Proposal to Permit Take as Provided Under the Bald and 
Golden Eagle Protection Act. U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, 
Washington, DC U.S.A.


    The authorities for this action are the Bald and Golden Eagle 
Protection Act (16 U.S.C. 668-668d) and the National Environmental 
Policy Act of 1969 (42 U.S.C. 4321 et seq.).

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    Dated: June 16, 2014.
Jerome Ford,
Assistant Director, Migratory Birds.
[FR Doc. 2014-14497 Filed 6-20-14; 8:45 am]