[Federal Register Volume 85, Number 137 (Thursday, July 16, 2020)]
[Pages 43254-43256]
From the Federal Register Online via the Government Publishing Office [www.gpo.gov]
[FR Doc No: 2020-14452]



Fish and Wildlife Service

[Docket No. FWS-R2-ES-2020-0065; FXES111602C0000-201-FF02ENEH00]

Environmental Assessment for a Candidate Conservation Agreement 
With Assurances for the Dunes Sagebrush Lizard (Sceloporus arenicolus); 
Andrews, Gaines, Crane, Ector, Ward, and Winkler Counties, Texas

AGENCY: Fish and Wildlife Service, Interior.

ACTION: Notice of intent; request for comments.


SUMMARY: We, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, intend to prepare an 
environmental assessment (EA) on a proposed candidate conservation 
agreement with assurances (CCAA) that will support an application for 
an enhancement of survival permit under the Endangered Species Act. The 
potential permit would cover the dunes sagebrush lizard (Sceloporus 
arenicolus) in six Texas counties. The CCAA would cover oil and gas 
exploration and development, sand mining, renewable energy development 
and operations, pipeline construction and operations, agricultural 
activities, general construction activities, and the conservation, 
research, and monitoring activities that are integral to meeting the 
CCAA net conservation benefit standard. The intended effect of this 
notice is to gather information from the public to develop and analyze 
the effects of the potential issuance of the permit, which would 
facilitate economic activities in the planning area, while providing a 
net conservation benefit to the dunes sagebrush lizard. We provide this 
notice to describe the proposed action, advise other Federal and State 
agencies, potentially affected tribal interests, and the public of our 
intent to prepare an EA, announce the initiation of a 30-day public 
scoping period, and obtain suggestions and information on the scope of 
issues and possible alternatives to be included in the EA.

DATES: To ensure consideration, written comments must be received or 
postmarked on or before 11:59 p.m. eastern time on August 17, 2020. We 
may not consider any comments we receive after the closing date in the 
final decision on this action.

    Obtaining Documents for Review: You may obtain copies of the CCAA 
in the following formats:

 http://www.regulations.gov (search for Docket No. FWS-R2-ES-

    Hard copies or CD-ROM:
     Contact Field Supervisor by phone or U.S. mail (see FOR 
FURTHER INFORMATION CONTACT; reference the notice title and docket 
number FWS-R2-ES-2020-0065).
    Email: fw2_HCP_Permits@fws.gov.
    Reviewing Public Comments: View submitted comments on http://www.regulations.gov in Docket No. FWS-R2-ES-2020-0065.
    Submitting Comments: You may submit written comments by one of the 
following methods:
    Internet: http://www.regulations.gov. Follow the instructions for 
submitting comments on Docket No. FWS-R2-ES-2020-0065.
    Hard Copy: Submit by U.S. mail to Public Comments Processing, Attn: 
FWS-R2-ES-2020-0065; U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, MS: PRB (JAO/3W); 
5275 Leesburg Pike, Falls Church, VA 22041-3803.
    We request that you submit comments by only the methods described 
above. We will post all information received on http://www.regulations.gov. This generally means we will post any personal 
information you provide us (see Public Availability of Comments).

FOR FURTHER INFORMATION CONTACT: Mr. Adam Zerrenner, Field Supervisor, 
by mail at U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, 10711 Burnet Road, Suite 
200, Austin, Texas 78758; via phone at 512-490-0057, ext. 248.; or via 
the Federal Relay Service at 800-877-8339.



    Section 9 of the Endangered Species Act of 1973, as amended (ESA; 
16 U.S.C. 1531 et seq.) and its implementing regulations prohibit the 
``take'' of animal species listed as endangered or threatened. Take is 
defined under the ESA as to ``harass, harm, pursue, hunt, shoot, wound, 
kill, trap, capture, or collect listed animal species, or to attempt to 
engage in such conduct'' (16 U.S.C. 1538). However, under section 10(a) 
of the ESA, we may issue permits to authorize incidental take of listed 
species. ``Incidental take'' is defined by the ESA as take that is 
incidental to, and not the purpose of, carrying out an otherwise lawful 
activity. Regulations governing such take of endangered and threatened, 
or candidate species, respectively, are found in title 50 of the Code 
of Federal Regulations at 50 CFR 17.22 and 50 CFR 17.32.

[[Page 43255]]

Permit Application

    The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (Service) received an 
application for an enhancement of survival (EOS) permit under section 
10(a)(1)(A) of the ESA, supported by the proposed CCAA. The potential 
EOS permit, which would be in effect for a period of approximately 22 
years, would authorize incidental take of the dunes sagebrush lizard 
(Sceloporus arenicolus), a species that has been petitioned for listing 
under the ESA. The dunes sagebrush lizard is the only covered species 
in this potential EOS permit. The proposed incidental take would result 
     Activities associated with otherwise lawful activities, 
including oil and gas exploration and development, sand mining, 
renewable energy development and operations, pipeline construction and 
operations, agricultural activities, general construction activities, 
and conservation, research, and monitoring activities;
     Habitat loss and fragmentation from construction, 
operation, and maintenance of roads, oil pads, sand mines, transmission 
lines, and pipelines;
     Crushing by vehicles and heavy equipment during road use 
and mining;
     Water withdrawal for sand processing that may impact dune 
stabilizing vegetation, and
     Disruption of normal lizard behaviors--breeding, feeding, 
and shelter--during conservation actions.


Proposed Action

    The proposed action involves the issuance of an EOS permit by the 
Service for the covered activities in the permit area, under section 
10(a)(1)(A) of the ESA. The EOS would cover ``take'' of the covered 
species associated with oil and gas exploration and development, sand 
mining, renewable energy development and operations, pipeline 
construction and operations, agricultural activities, and general 
construction activities within the permit area. The CCAA associated 
with this potential EOS permit describes the conservation measures the 
applicant has agreed to undertake to minimize and mitigate for the 
impacts of the proposed taking of covered species to meet the net 
conservation benefit standard of the CCAA policy. The terms of the CCAA 
and EOS permit will also ensure that these activities will not 
appreciably reduce the likelihood of the survival and recovery of the 
species in the wild.

No Action Alternative

    As part of the process of developing an environmental assessment 
(EA), we will consider at least one alternative to the proposed action: 
No Action. Under a No Action alternative, the Service would not issue 
the potential EOS permit and the applicant would not be authorized for 
incidental taking of the covered species, should the dunes sagebrush 
lizard be listed as threatened or endangered. Therefore, the applicant 
would not be required to implement the conservation measures described 
in the CCAA.

Public Comments

    We are requesting information from other interested government 
agencies, Native American Tribes, the scientific community, industry, 
or other interested parties concerning the following areas of analysis 
in the draft EA:
     Wildlife and aquatic resources,
     Special status species,
     Surface waters and floodplains,
     Hydrology and groundwater,
     Wetlands and waters of the United States,
     Architectural history,
     Sites of religious and cultural significance to Tribes,
     Noise and vibration,
     Visual resources and aesthetics,
     Economics and socioeconomics,
     Environmental justice,
     Air quality (including greenhouse gas emissions and 
climate change),
     Geology and soil,
     Land use,
     Infrastructure and utilities,
     Hazardous materials and solid waste management, and
     Human health and safety.
    In addition to the topics above, we are seeking comments on 
additional alternatives to potentially consider when drafting the EA.
    Please note that submissions merely stating support for, or 
opposition to, the action under consideration without providing 
supporting information, although noted, will not provide information 
useful in determining the issues and the impacts to the human 
environment in the draft EA. The public will also have a chance to 
review and comment on the draft EA when it is available.
    You may submit your comments and materials by one of the methods 
described above under ADDRESSES.

Next Steps

    We will develop an EA concerning the impacts of EOS permit issuance 
on the human environment based on our evaluation of the CCAA and the 
information and comments we receive in response to this notice. We will 
announce the availability of a draft EA, CCAA, and EOS permit 
application for public review and comment. The comments on the draft EA 
will assist in our determination as to the lack or presence of 
significant impacts on the human environment.
    At that time, if we can sign a finding of no significant impact 
(FONSI), we would then evaluate the application, including the CCAA, as 
to its ability to meet the requirements of section 10(a) of the ESA. We 
will also evaluate whether issuance of a section 10(a)(1)(A) permit 
would comply with section 7 of the ESA by conducting an intra-Service 
section 7 consultation. We will use the results of this consultation, 
in combination with the above findings, in our final analysis to 
determine whether to issue an EOS permit.
    If all necessary requirements are met, we will issue the EOS permit 
to the applicant. If we cannot sign a FONSI, we will take all comments 
from this scoping period and the comment period on the draft EA to 
develop a draft environmental impact statement (EIS), which would be 
noticed for review and comment before we would finalize the EIS and 
sign a record of decision.

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 your entire comment--including 
your personal identifying information--may be made publicly available 
at any time. While you can request in your comment that we withhold 
your personal identifying information from public review, we cannot 
guarantee that we will be able to do so. We will not consider anonymous 
comments. 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 entirety.


    We provide this notice under section 10(c) of the ESA and its 
implementing regulations (50 CFR 17.22 and 17.32) and the National 
Environmental Policy Act (42 U.S.C. 4321 et seq.) and its

[[Page 43256]]

implementing regulations (40 CFR 1506.6).

Amy L. Lueders,
Regional Director, Albuquerque, New Mexico.
[FR Doc. 2020-14452 Filed 7-15-20; 8:45 am]