[Federal Register Volume 85, Number 141 (Wednesday, July 22, 2020)]
[Pages 44315-44316]
From the Federal Register Online via the Government Publishing Office [www.gpo.gov]
[FR Doc No: 2020-15831]

[[Page 44315]]



Fish and Wildlife Service

[FWS-R5-ES-2013-0090; FXES111X0500000-XXX-FF05E00000]

Receipt of Incidental Take Permit Application and Proposed 
Habitat Conservation Plan for Indiana Bat and Northern Long-Eared Bat 
for the Forestry Habitat Conservation Plan for Bats on Pennsylvania 
State Game Lands, State Forests, and State Parks; and Draft 
Environmental Assessment

AGENCY: Fish and Wildlife Service, Interior.

ACTION: Notice of availability of documents; request for comment and 


SUMMARY: We, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (Service), announce the 
receipt of an application from the Pennsylvania Game Commission (PGC) 
and Pennsylvania Department of Conservation and Natural Resources 
(DCNR) (applicants), for an incidental take permit (ITP) under the 
Endangered Species Act (ESA). The applicants request the ITP for take 
of the federally endangered Indiana bat (Myotis sodalis) and threatened 
northern long-eared bat (Myotis septentrionalis) incidental to 
otherwise lawful activities associated with forestry activities on 
State Game Lands, State Forests, and State Parks. The applicants 
propose a conservation program to minimize and mitigate for the 
unavoidable incidental take as described in their Forestry Habitat 
Conservation Plan for Bats on Pennsylvania State Game Lands, State 
Forests, and State Parks (HCP). We request public comment on the 
application, which includes the applicants' proposed HCP, and the 
Service's draft environmental assessment, prepared pursuant to the 
National Environmental Policy Act. We provide this notice to seek 
comments from the public and Federal, Tribal, State, and local 

DATES: We will accept comments received or postmarked on or before 
August 21, 2020.

    Reviewing documents: You may obtain copies of the application, 
including the HCP and the draft environmental assessment, in Docket No. 
FWS-R5-ES-2013-0090 at http://www.regulations.gov.
    Submitting Comments: You may submit comments by one of the 
following methods:
     Federal eRulemaking Portal: http://www.regulations.gov. 
Follow the instructions for submitting comments on Docket No. FWS-R5-
     U.S. mail or hand-delivery: Public Comments Processing; 
Attn: Docket No. FWS-R5-ES-2013-0090; U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service 
Headquarters, MS: PRB/3W; 5275 Leesburg Pike, Falls Church, VA 22041-
    For additional information about submitting comments, see Request 
for Public Comments and Public Availability of Comments under 

FOR FURTHER INFORMATION CONTACT: Pamela R. Shellenberger, by telephone 
at 814-234-4090, extension 7459. Hearing or speech impaired individuals 
may call the Federal Relay Service at 800-877-8339 for TTY assistance.



    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 incidental take 
permits for endangered and threatened species, respectively, are found 
in the Code of Federal Regulations at 50 CFR 17.22 and 50 CFR 17.32.

Proposed Project

    The applicants request a 30-year incidental take permit (ITP) for 
take of the federally listed endangered Indiana bat and the federally 
listed threatened northern long-eared bat (covered species) incidental 
to forestry activities on 4 million acres of State Game Lands, State 
Forests, and State Parks (covered lands). PGC manages 1.5 million acres 
of State Game Lands, and DCNR manages 2.2 million acres of State 
Forests and 300,000 acres of State Parks. These predominantly forested 
lands provide potential foraging, roosting, maternity colony, and fall 
swarming habitat for all bat species that occur in Pennsylvania, 
including the Indiana bat and northern long-eared bat. The applicants 
determined that forestry activities on these lands are reasonably 
certain to result in unavoidable incidental take of these federally 
listed covered species. Activities that could result in incidental take 
of Indiana bats and northern long-eared bats (covered activities) can 
be categorized in five major groups--timber harvest, operations 
(fencing and firewood collection), road and trail construction and 
maintenance, prescribed fire, and implementation of the conservation 
    The HCP includes measures to minimize and mitigate impacts to the 
covered species, including but not limited to implementing seasonal 
restrictions on various activities, installing bat-safe gates at known 
hibernacula, removing air flow obstructions around known hibernacula, 
minimizing impacts to summer roosting habitat, avoiding timber harvest 
effects on non-volant pups in maternity colonies, seasonally 
restricting prescribed fire, avoiding activities within 50 feet of 
riparian areas, installing artificial roost structures, and 
identifying, assessing, protecting, and enhancing potential 
    We request public comments on the permit application, which 
includes a proposed HCP, and an EA prepared in accordance with NEPA.
    The applicants' HCP describes the activities that will be 
undertaken to implement forestry activities, as well as the mitigation 
and minimization measures proposed to address the impacts to the 
covered species. Pursuant to NEPA, the EA analyzes the impacts the ITP 
issuance would have on the covered species and the environment.

National Environmental Policy Act

    The issuance of an ITP is a Federal action that triggers the need 
for compliance with NEPA (42 U.S.C. 4321 et seq.). We prepared a draft 
EA that analyzes the environmental impacts on the human environment 
resulting from three alternatives: A no-action alternative, the HCP 
with specific timber harvest restrictions, and the proposed action. The 
proposed action alternative is issuance of the ITP and implementation 
of the HCP as submitted by the applicants. The applicants anticipate 
affecting 19,770 acres annually for Indiana bats, which accounts for 
less than 1 percent of all State Lands, and 130,366 acres annually for 
northern long-eared bats which accounts for 3.3 percent of all State 

Next Steps

    The Service will evaluate the application and the comments received 
to determine whether the permit application meets the requirements of

[[Page 44316]]

section 10(a) of the ESA (16 U.S.C. 1531 et seq.). We will also conduct 
an intra-Service consultation pursuant to section 7 of the ESA to 
evaluate the effects of the proposed take. After considering the above 
findings, we will determine whether the permit issuance criteria of 
section 10(a)(l)(B) of the ESA have been met. If met, the Service will 
issue the requested ITP to the applicants.

Public Comments

    The Service invites the public to comment on the proposed HCP and 
draft EA during a 30-day public comment period (see DATES). You may 
submit comments by one of the methods shown under ADDRESSES.

Public Availability of Comments

    We will post on http://regulations.gov all public comments and 
information received electronically or via hardcopy. All comments 
received, including names and addresses, will become part of the 
administrative 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. 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 


    The Service provides this notice under section 10(c) (16 U.S.C. 
1539(c)) of the ESA and NEPA regulation 40 CFR 1506.6.

Pamela Toschik,
Acting Assistant Regional Director, Ecological Services, North 
Atlantic-Appalachian Region.
[FR Doc. 2020-15831 Filed 7-21-20; 8:45 am]