[Federal Register Volume 64, Number 3 (Wednesday, January 6, 1999)]
[Notices]
[Pages 907-908]
From the Federal Register Online via the Government Printing Office [www.gpo.gov]
[FR Doc No: 99-40]


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DEPARTMENT OF THE INTERIOR

Fish and Wildlife Service


Availability of a Habitat Conservation Plan and Receipt of an 
Application for an Incidental Take Permit for the City of The Dalles 
Municipal Watershed, Wasco County, Oregon

AGENCY: Fish and Wildlife Service, DOI.

ACTION: Notice of receipt.

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SUMMARY: This notice advises the public that the City of The Dalles 
(City) has applied to the Fish and Wildlife Service (Service) for an 
incidental take permit pursuant to section 10(a)(1)(B) of the 
Endangered Species Act of 1973, as amended (Act). The application has 
been assigned permit number TE004366-0. The proposed permit would 
authorize the incidental take, in the form of habitat modification 
(i.e., harm), of the northern spotted owl (Strix occidentalis caurina) 
which is federally listed as threatened. The permit would be in effect 
for up to 30 years.
    We request comments from the public on the City's incidental take 
permit application and the accompanying proposed City of The Dalles 
Habitat Conservation Plan (Plan). The Plan fully describes the proposed 
project and the measures the City will undertake to mitigate for 
project impacts to the owl. These measures and associated impacts are 
also described in the background and summary information that follow.
    We also request comments from the public on our preliminary 
determination that the City's Plan would qualify as a ``Low Effect'' 
Plan, eligible for a categorical exclusion under the National 
Environmental Policy Act, as provided by the Department of the Interior 
Manual (516 DM2, Appendix 1 and 516 DM 6, Appendix 1). The basis for 
this determination is discussed in an Environmental Action Statement, 
which is also available for public review.

DATES: Written comments on the permit application and Plan should be 
received on or before February 5, 1999.

ADDRESSES: Individuals wishing copies of the permit application, copies 
of the Service's preliminary Low Effect Determination, or copies of the 
full text of the Plan, which includes a map of the permit area, 
references, legal descriptions of the permit area and an associated 
Memorandum of Understanding between the U.S. Forest Service and the 
City, should immediately contact the office and personnel listed below. 
Documents also will be available for public inspection, by appointment, 
during normal business hours at the address below. Comments regarding 
the permit application or the Plan should be addressed to State 
Supervisor, Fish and Wildlife Service, Oregon State Office, 2600 S.E. 
98th Avenue, Suite 100, Portland, Oregon 97266, fax number (503) 231-
6195. Please refer to permit number TE004366-0 when submitting 
comments.

FOR FURTHER INFORMATION CONTACT: Mr. Joseph Zisa, Fish and Wildlife 
Service, Oregon State Office, telephone (503) 231-6179.

SUPPLEMENTARY INFORMATION: Section 9 of the Act and federal regulation 
prohibits the ``taking'' of a species listed as endangered or 
threatened. However, the Service, under limited circumstances, may 
issue permits to ``take'' listed species, provided such take is 
incidental to, and not the purpose of, an otherwise lawful activity. 
Regulations governing permits for threatened species are promulgated in 
50 CFR 17.32. Regulations governing permits for endangered species are 
promulgated in 50 CFR 17.22.

Background

    The proposed permit area encompasses 1,432 acres of City-owned land 
in the South Fork Mill Creek Watershed of Wasco County, Oregon. It is 
an access-restricted watershed that is managed for the purposes of 
municipal water supply and quality. The City has determined that forest 
management activities in the permit area are compatible with their 
water supply and quality purposes. The permit area occurs in a narrow, 
linear distribution along the upper South Fork Mill Creek and is nearly 
surrounded by adjacent Forest Service land.
    Much of the permit area is young or degraded Douglas Fir-White Fir 
and Ponderosa Pine-White Fir stands that are unsuitable for use by 
spotted owls. However, about 850 of the 1,432 forested acres are 
classified as useable by spotted owls. Nearly 500 of the 850 acres are 
lower quality habitat that may provide for owl dispersal opportunities 
but are of limited value for owl foraging or nesting. The surrounding 
Forest Service lands are designated as ``matrix'' under the Northwest 
Forest Plan for the purpose of providing dispersal and connectivity 
opportunities for the spotted owl.
    The City-owned lands that provide spotted owl habitat occur within 
the likely home ranges of two spotted owl activity centers: one is 
occupied by a pair of owls, and the other is occupied by a territorial 
single owl. Neither of these home ranges contain habitat quantities 
sufficient to support the long-term viability and occupancy of the 
resident owls. Currently, about 79 acres of the Plan area within these 
likely home ranges function as suitable nesting, roosting, or foraging 
habitat for owls. In addition, 270 acres of suitable nesting, roosting, 
or foraging habitat is considered unoccupied by owls.

Summary of the Habitat Conservation Plan

    The Plan would ensure that the City's timber harvest impacts to 
spotted owls are minimized and mitigated to the maximum extent 
practicable by coordinating City activities with the Forest Service to 
manage the land on an ecosystem-wide basis. The City has entered into a 
Memorandum of Understanding with the Forest Service, Mt. Hood National 
Forest, to provide for coordinated and consistent management across the 
watershed. Standards and

[[Page 908]]

guidelines established for management of federal lands designated as 
matrix under the Northwest Forest Plan will be applied to the municipal 
ownership for a period of 20 years. Under the Memorandum of 
Understanding the City shall:
    (1) Maintain riparian buffers along South Fork Mill Creek and Crow 
Creek for a slope distance equal to or greater than the height of 2 
site-potential trees from the edge of the stream channel in which 60 to 
80 percent conifer canopy closure will be maintained.
    (2) Cooperatively maintain, with the Forest Service, 100 acres of 
the best spotted owl habitat as close as possible to identified 
activity centers for all known spotted owl activity centers located on 
City-owned or Forest Service lands. City-owned habitat within activity 
centers on City-owned lands must be maintained until it is determined 
through accepted protocol survey efforts that the sites have been 
vacated by spotted owls for a period of 3 years.
    (3) Timber management within retained 100-acre areas will be 
consistent with the guidelines for Late-Successional Reserves as 
defined in the Northwest Forest Plan.
    (4) Provide for maintenance of adequate levels of coarse woody 
debris during timber harvest activities on City-owned lands based upon 
a target (where present and practicable) of 120 linear feet of logs per 
acre, 16 inches in diameter or greater and 16 feet long, for 
regeneration harvests, and appropriately modified for partial-cut 
harvests (modified targets to be developed jointly with the Forest 
Service).
    Phase I of this Plan is a commitment by the City to abide by the 
terms of the Memorandum of Understanding for a period of 20 years. 
Phase II of the Plan will last for a period of 10 years, during which 
the City would either continue conditions set forth in the Memorandum 
of Understanding or ensure that the following conditions are met:
    (1) Either 79 acres of owl nesting, roosting, or foraging habitat 
and an additional 730 acres of dispersal or better habitat is 
maintained on the permit lands or 100 acres of nesting, roosting, or 
foraging habitat and an additional 590 acres of dispersal or better 
habitat is maintained on the permit area. The above habitat 
requirements must be within the permit area, but need not be the same 
habitat currently existing on the permit area.
    (2) Impacts to any known owl-occupied sites on or adjacent to the 
ownership would be minimized through: the avoidance of the 70-acre core 
area surrounding site centers until the sites have been determined by 
the Service to be vacant for 3 years; and no harvest activities within 
1/4 mile of a known, active nest site between 01 March and 30 June.
    The Service has made a preliminary determination that the City Plan 
qualifies as a ``Low-Effect'' Plan as defined by the Service's Habitat 
Conservation Planning Handbook. Low-Effect Plans are those involving: 
(1) minor or negligible effects on federally listed and candidate 
species and their habitats; and (2) minor or negligible effects on 
other environmental values or resources. As more fully explained in the 
Service's Environmental Action Statement, the City Plan qualifies as a 
Low Effect Plan for the following reasons:
    (1) Approval of the Plan will result in minor or negligible effects 
on the owl and other listed or proposed species. Due to the low quality 
of this area for habitat suitability and occupation by owls and the 
minimization measures contained in the Plan, the amount of take likely 
to occur is low. The Service anticipates the take of approximately two 
owl sites over the entire 30-year permit duration. This level of loss 
would likely have occurred absent this proposed action due to 
management actions undertaken on adjacent federal land.
    (2) The Plan will not have adverse effects on unique geographic, 
historic or cultural sites, or involve unique or unknown environmental 
risks.
    (3) Approval of the Plan will not result in any cumulative or 
growth-inducing impacts and, therefore, will not result in significant 
adverse effects on public health or safety.
    (4) The project does not require compliance with Executive Order 
11988 (Floodplain Management), Executive Order 11990 (Protection of 
Wetlands), or the Fish and Wildlife Coordination Act, nor does it 
threaten to violate a Federal, state, local or tribal law or 
requirement imposed for the protection of the environment.
    (5) Approval of this Plan will not establish a precedent for future 
action or represent a decision in principle about future actions with 
potentially significant environmental effects.
    The Service has therefore made a preliminary determination that 
approval of the City Plan qualifies as a categorical exclusion under 
the National Environmental Policy Act, as provided by the Department of 
the Interior Manual (516 DM2, Appendix 1 and 516 DM 6, Appendix 1). 
Based upon this preliminary determination, we do not intend to prepare 
further National Environmental Policy Act documentation. The Service 
will consider public comments in making its final determination on 
whether to prepare such additional documentation.
    This notice is provided pursuant to section 10(c) of the Act. The 
Service will evaluate the permit application, Plan, and comments 
submitted thereon to determine whether the application meets the 
requirements of section 10(a) of the Act. If it is determined that the 
requirements are met, a permit will be issued for the incidental take 
of the northern spotted owl. The final permit decision will be made no 
sooner than 30 days from the date of this notice.

    Dated: December 29, 1998.
Thomas J. Dwyer,
Acting Regional Director, Region 1, Portland, Oregon.
[FR Doc. 99-40 Filed 1-5-99; 8:45 am]
BILLING CODE 4310-55-P