[Federal Register Volume 79, Number 231 (Tuesday, December 2, 2014)]
[Pages 71444-71446]
From the Federal Register Online via the Government Printing Office [www.gpo.gov]
[FR Doc No: 2014-28361]



Fish and Wildlife Service

[FWS-R1-ES-2014-N238; FXES11120100000-156-FF01E00000]

Draft Programmatic Candidate Conservation Agreements With 
Assurances and Receipt of Applications for Enhancement of Survival 
Permits for the Greater Sage-Grouse in Oregon; and Draft Environmental 

AGENCY: Fish and Wildlife Service, Interior.

ACTION: Notice of availability; request for comments.


SUMMARY: We, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (Service), have 
received applications from five Soil and Water Conservation Districts 
(SWCDs) for enhancement of survival (EOS) permits under the Endangered 
Species Act of 1973, as amended (ESA). The permit applications include 
proposed programmatic candidate conservation agreements with assurances 
(CCAAs) for the greater sage-grouse, addressing conservation activities 
and ranching operations in Baker, Crook, Deschutes, Grant, Lake, 
Malheur, and southern Union Counties, Oregon. The Service also 
announces the availability of a draft environmental assessment (EA) 
addressing the proposed CCAAs and issuance of EOS permits in accordance 
with the National Environmental Policy Act of 1969, as amended (NEPA). 
We invite comments from all interested parties on the applications, 
including the CCAAs and the EA.

DATES: To ensure consideration, written comments must be received from 
interested parties no later than January 2, 2015.

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 Multi-County CCAA.
     Internet: Documents may be viewed on the Internet at 
     Email: Jeff_Everett@fws.gov. Include ``Multi-County CCAA'' 
in the subject line of the message or comments.
     U.S. Mail: U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, Oregon Fish and 
Wildlife Office, 2600 SE. 98th Ave., Suite 100, Portland, OR 97266.
     Fax: 503-231-6195, Attn: Multi-County CCAA.
     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, Oregon Fish and Wildlife Office, 
2600 SE. 98th Ave., Suite 100, Portland, OR.

FOR FURTHER INFORMATION CONTACT: Jeff Everett or Jennifer Siani, U.S. 
Fish and Wildlife Service, Oregon Fish and Wildlife Office (see 
ADDRESSES), telephone: 503-231-6179. If you use a telecommunications 
device for the deaf, please call the Federal Information Relay Service 
at 800-877-8339.

SUPPLEMENTARY INFORMATION: We have received five applications--from 
Baker Valley SWCD, Crook County SWCD, Grant SWCD, Lakeview SWCD, and 
Malheur County SWCD--for EOS permits under section 10(a)(1)(A) of the 
ESA for incidental take of sage-grouse (Centrocercus urophasianus). 
Each application includes a CCAA covering sage-grouse habitat on 
private lands in one or two counties in Oregon. The Service and the 
SWCDs prepared the CCAAs to provide landowners with the opportunity to 
voluntarily conserve the greater sage-grouse and its habitat while 
carrying out ranch operations.

Background Information

    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. EOS permits are issued to applicants in 
association with approved CCAAs to authorize incidental take of the 
covered species from covered activities, should they become listed. 
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 EOS 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 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

[[Page 71445]]

first. A proposed listing determination is scheduled for September 
2015. In anticipation of the potential listing of sage-grouse under the 
ESA, the SWCDs requested assistance from the Service in developing 
sage-grouse CCAAs for ranch management activities on behalf of private 
landowners in Baker, Crook, Deschutes, Grant, Lake, Malheur, and 
southern Union Counties, Oregon.

Proposed Action

    The Service proposes to approve five programmatic CCAAs and to 
issue EOS permits, each with a term of 30 years, to the applicants for 
incidental take of greater sage-grouse caused by covered activities, if 
permit issuance criteria are met. Covered activities include rangeland 
treatments, livestock management, recreation, farm operations, and 
developments associated with ranching operations. The area covered 
under these proposed programmatic CCAAs is approximately 2,312,673 
acres of core area (or preliminary priority habitat) and low-density 
(or preliminary general habitat) sage-grouse habitat located in Baker, 
Crook, Deschutes, Grant, Lake, Malheur, and southern Union Counties, 
Oregon. Sage-grouse currently use habitats on the covered lands for 
lekking (breeding displays), late brood-rearing, and wintering.
    The draft programmatic CCAAs describe all of the threats to sage-
grouse that have been identified on the covered lands, including: Loss 
and fragmentation of sagebrush habitat; large wildfires, as well as 
lack of fire in some areas; encroachment of junipers and other 
conifers; improper grazing; invasive plants; vegetation treatments that 
reduce or degrade sagebrush habitat; degradation of riparian areas; 
drought, as well as catastrophic flooding; disturbance from recreation 
and other activities; predation; West Nile virus; wild horse and 
burros; and insecticide use. The CCAAs also describe conservation 
measures landowners would implement to address each threat. 
Implementation of the programmatic CCAAs would benefit sage-grouse by 
reducing or eliminating threats to the species on the covered lands and 
by creating or maintaining habitat conditions that are suitable for all 
life-history stages of the species through the implementation of 
conservation measures.
    A private landowner who wishes to enroll under the programmatic 
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 identifying threats on the property and in selecting 
conservation measures to address those threats. Once the SSP is 
completed, the SWCD will submit it to the Service for approval. If the 
Service determines that an SSP is consistent with the terms and 
conditions established in the CCAA and EOS permit, the Service will 
issue a letter of concurrence to the SWCD approving the SSP. Upon 
Service approval of the SSP, the landowner and the SWCD will sign a 
Certificate of Inclusion in order for the landowner to receive coverage 
under the EOS permit issued to the SWCD for take of sage-grouse 
incidental to conservation and ranching 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 their SSP and the EOS permit.

National Environmental Policy Act Compliance

    Approval of programmatic CCAAs and issuance of EOS permits are 
Federal actions that trigger the need for compliance with NEPA. 
Pursuant to NEPA, we have prepared one draft EA to analyze the 
environmental impacts related to the issuance of all five EOS permits 
and implementation of their associated programmatic CCAAs.
    The EA analyses three alternatives: A ``no action'' alternative, a 
landowner-specific alternative, and the proposed action. Under the no 
action alternative, the FWS would not enter into any additional CCAAs 
nor issue additional EOS permits for incidental take of sage-grouse 
associated with private ranching operations in Oregon; however, 
existing CCAAs and other conservation efforts would continue. The 
landowner-specific alternative would involve the development of CCAAs 
and issuance of EOS permits on an individual landowner-by-landowner 
basis. The proposed action alternative is a programmatic approach, in 
which the FWS would issue EOS permits to SWCDs and enter into multi-
county CCAAs that will streamline landowner enrollment through 
certificates of inclusion. The proposed action is further described 
under ``Proposed Action.''

Public Comments

    You may submit your comments and materials by one of the methods 
listed in the ADDRESSES section. We specifically request information, 
views, opinions, or suggestions from the public on our proposed Federal 
permit actions. We particularly seek comments on the following: (1) 
Biological information and data concerning greater sage-grouse; (2) 
current or planned activities in the covered area and their possible 
impacts on sage-grouse; (3) identification of any other environmental 
effects that should be considered with regard to the proposed permit 
actions; and (4) information regarding the adequacy of the CCAAs 
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 
EA, will be available for public inspection by appointment, during 
normal business hours, at our Oregon Fish and Wildlife Office (see 

Next Steps

    After completion of the EA based on consideration of public 
comments, we will determine whether adoption of the programmatic CCAAs 
warrants a finding of no significant impact or whether an environmental 
impact statement should be prepared pursuant to NEPA. We will evaluate 
the programmatic CCAAs, as well as any comments we receive, to 
determine whether implementation of the CCAAs would meet the criteria 
for issuance of EOS permits under section 10(a)(1)(A) of the ESA. We 
will also evaluate whether the proposed permit action would comply with 
section 7 of the ESA by conducting an intra-Service section 7 
consultation. 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 EOS permits to the SWCDs. We will not make the 
final NEPA and permit decisions until after the end of the 30-day 
public comment period on this notice, and we will fully consider all 
comments we receive during the public comment period.
    If we determine that the permit issuance requirements are met, the 
Service will issue EOS permits to the five SWCDs. The SWCDs would then 
begin processing applications from landowners interested in developing 
SSPs consistent with the CCAAs in

[[Page 71446]]

order to receive coverage for the incidental take of greater sage-
grouse under the SWCDs' EOS permits.


    We provide this notice in accordance with the requirements of 
section 10 of the ESA (16 U.S.C. 1531 et seq.), and NEPA (42 U.S.C. 
4321 et seq.) and their implementing regulations (50 CFR 17.22 and 40 
CFR 1506.6, respectively).

    Dated: November 17, 2014 .
Richard Hannan,
Deputy Regional Director, Pacific Region, U.S. Fish and Wildlife 
Service, Portland, Oregon.
[FR Doc. 2014-28361 Filed 12-1-14; 8:45 am]