[Federal Register Volume 64, Number 242 (Friday, December 17, 1999)]
[Notices]
[Pages 70695-70697]
From the Federal Register Online via the Government Printing Office [www.gpo.gov]
[FR Doc No: 99-32778]


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DEPARTMENT OF COMMERCE

National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration

DEPARTMENT OF THE INTERIOR

Fish and Wildlife Service
[I.D. 120999H]


Availability of a Draft Environmental Impact Statement and 
Receipt of an Application for an Incidental Take Permit Submitted by 
Plum Creek Timberlands, L.P., (and its partners Plum Creek Timber 
Company, Inc. and Plum Creek Timber I L.L.C.), Plum Creek Marketing 
Inc., Plum Creek Land Company, Plum Creek Northwest Lumber, Inc., Plum 
Creek Northwest Plywood, Inc., and Plum Creek MDF, Inc., for Lands in 
Montana, Idaho, and Washington

AGENCIES: National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS), National Oceanic 
and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), Commerce; Fish and Wildlife 
Service (FWS), Interior.

ACTION: Notice of application and availability for public comment.

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SUMMARY: This notice advises the public that Plum Creek Timberlands, 
L.P. and associated companies identified above (Plum Creek) have 
submitted an application to NMFS and FWS (together, the Services) for 
an Incidental Take Permit (Permit) pursuant to section 10(a)(1)(B) of 
the Endangered Species Act of 1973, as amended (ESA). As required by 
section 10(a)(2)(B) of the ESA, the applicant has also prepared a 
Habitat Conservation Plan (Plan) designed to minimize and mitigate for 
any take of endangered or threatened species. The Permit application is 
related to forest management and other Plum Creek activities on 
approximately 1.7 million acres of Plum Creek land in western Montana, 
northern Idaho, and western Washington. Of the 1.7 million acres, 
approximately 88 percent occur in Montana, 8 percent occur in Idaho, 
and 4 percent occur in Washington.
    The proposed permit would authorize the take of the following eight 
listed endangered or threatened species incidental to otherwise lawful 
activities:
    Bull trout (Salvelinus confluentus): Columbia River (ClR) distinct 
population segment (DPS).
    Steelhead (Oncorhynchus mykiss): Snake River (SnR) evolutionarily 
significant unit (ESU), middle Columbia River ESU, lower Columbia River 
(LCR) ESU.
    Chinook salmon (O. tshawytscha): SnR spring/summer ESU, SnR fall 
ESU; LCR ESU.
    Chum salmon (O. keta): ClR ESU.
    Plum Creek is also seeking coverage for nine currently unlisted 
anadromous and resident fish under specific provisions of the Permit, 
should these species be listed in the future. These species include: 
redband trout (O. mykiss); coastal rainbow trout (O. mykiss); westslope 
cutthroat trout (O. clarki lewisi); mountain whitefish (Prosopium 
williamsoni) pygmy whitefish (P. coulteri); coastal cutthroat trout (O. 
clarki clarki), including the proposed Southwestern Washington/Columbia 
River coastal cutthroat trout ESU and populations above barriers; Upper 
Columbia River summer/fall chinook salmon ESU (O. tshawytscha); 
candidate LCR/Southwest Washington coho salmon ESU (O. kisutch) and 
Mid-Columbia River spring chinook salmon ESU (O. tshawytscha). Six of 
the 17 covered species are resident fish species, and eleven are 
anadromous fish species or have an anadromous life history form. The 
duration of the proposed Permit and Plan is 30 years.
    Plum Creek's Permit application includes: (1) the proposed Plan; 
and, (2) a proposed Implementing Agreement (Agreement). The Services 
also announce the availability of a draft Environmental Impact 
Statement (EIS) for the Permit application. To facilitate public review 
and comment, and to avoid voluminous documentation, the

[[Page 70696]]

proposed Plan is included in the draft EIS in Chapter 3.
    This notice is provided pursuant to section 10(a) of the ESA and 
National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) regulations. The Services are 
furnishing this notice in order to allow other agencies and the public 
an opportunity to review and comment on these documents. All comments 
received will become part of the public record and will be available 
for review pursuant to section 10(c) of the ESA.

DATES: Written comments on the Permit application, draft EIS, Plan, and 
Agreement must be received at the appropriate address or fax number 
(See ADDRESSES) from interested parties no later than 5:00pm mountain 
standard time on February 15, 2000. In addition, comments will be 
accepted during public meetings to be held at various locations in the 
vicinity of the proposed project area. All meetings are scheduled from 
3:30 to 7:30 p.m. on dates and at locations as follows:
    January 11th - Kelso, Washington Doubletree Hotel
    January 12th - Yakima, Washington Cavanaugh's Gateway
    January 17th - Libby, Montana Venture Inn
    January 18th - Kalispell, Montana Outlaw Inn (Cavanaugh's/Best 
Western)
    January 19th - Missoula, Montana Holiday Inn Parkside
    January 20th - Coeur D 'Alene, Idaho Shilo Inn

ADDRESSES:
    Written comments should be sent to Ted Koch, Project Biologist, 
FWS, 1387 S. Vinnell Way, Room 368, Boise, Idaho 83709 (fax: 208/378-
5262), and Bob Ries, Project Biologist, NMFS, 1387 S. Vinnell Way, Room 
377, Boise, Idaho 83709 (fax: 208/378-5699). Comments will not be 
accepted if submitted via e-mail or the internet.
    Requests for documents on CD ROM may be made by calling Ted Koch, 
FWS, at (208)378-5243. Hardbound copies are also available for viewing, 
or partial or complete duplication, at the following libraries:
    Boise Public Library, 715 S. Capitol Blvd., Boise, ID 83702 (208/
384-4340);
    Lewiston City Library, 101 Fifth Street, Lewiston, ID 83501 (208/
743-7221);
    Coeur d'Alene Public Library, 201 E. Harrison Avenue, Coeur 
d'Alene, ID 83814-2373 (208/769-2315);
    Missoula Public Library, 301 East Main, Missoula, MT 59802-4799 
(406/721-2665);
    Spokane Public Library, 906 W Main Ave, Spokane, WA 99201-0976 
(509/444-5300);
    Olympia Timberland Library, 313 8th Ave SE, Olympia, WA 98501-9300 
(360/352-0595);
    Yakima Valley Regional Library, 102 N Third St, Yakima, WA 98901-
2705 (509/ 452-8541);
    Lewis and Clark Library, 120 S. Last Chance Gulch, Helena, MT 
59601-4133 (406/447-1690);
    Flathead County Library, 247 First Avenue E., Kalispell, MT 59901-
4598 (406/758-5820).
    The documents are also available electronically on the World Wide 
Web at http://www.fws.gov/r1srbo/SRBO/Plumck.htm.
    Comments and materials received will also be available for public 
inspection, by appointment, during normal business hours by calling the 
U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service Snake River Basin Office in Boise, ID, 
at (208)378-5243.

FOR FURTHER INFORMATION CONTACT: Ted Koch, 208/378-5243, fax 208/378-
5262, e-mail Ted_Koch@mail.fws.gov; or Bob Ries, 208/378-5696, fax 208/
378-5699, e-mail Bob.Ries@noaa.gov.

SUPPLEMENTARY INFORMATION: Section 9 of the ESA and Federal regulations 
prohibit the ``taking'' of a species listed as endangered or 
threatened. The term take is defined under the ESA to mean harass, 
harm, pursue, hunt, shoot, wound, kill, trap, capture, or collect, or 
to attempt to engage in any such conduct. However, the Services, under 
limited circumstances, may issue permits to take listed species 
incidental to, and not the purpose of, otherwise lawful activities. FWS 
regulations governing permits for endangered species are promulgated in 
50 CFR 17.22; and, regulations governing permits for threatened species 
are promulgated in 50 CFR 17.32. NMFS regulations governing permits for 
endangered species are promulgated at 50 CFR 222.307; and, regulations 
governing permits for threatened species are promulgated at 50 CFR 223.

Background

    Plum Creek owns and manages approximately 1.7 million acres of land 
in western Montana (88% of lands), northern Idaho (8% of lands), and 
western Washington (4% of lands). The Plan area includes portions of 17 
major watersheds (or Planning Area Basins); eleven in Montana, three in 
Idaho, and three in Washington. Most lands are closely intermingled 
with U.S. Department of Agriculture, Forest Service lands. Plum Creek 
proposes to manage these lands pursuant to the Plan, and has applied to 
the Services for a Permit authorizing incidental take that may result 
from certain activities on these lands. Plum Creek proposes to include 
seven conservation commitment categories, with a variety of associated 
land management activities, for coverage under the permit, including: 
roads and upland management actions and conservation commitments; 
riparian area forest management and conservation commitments; range and 
livestock grazing management and conservation commitments; land use 
planning commitments; legacy and restoration activity commitments; 
administration and implementation commitments; and monitoring and 
adaptive management commitments. Specific actions to be permitted 
include commercial forestry and associated activities, including road 
building, use, maintenance, and gravel quarrying; silvicultural 
activities, including upland and riparian timber harvest, tree 
planting, site preparation, stand maintenance, and prescribed burning; 
manufacturing of forest products; forest fire suppression; livestock 
grazing; special use permits; conservation activities; and other forest 
land product sales. The duration of the proposed Permit and Plan is 30 
years.
    Some proposed covered activities have the potential to impact 
species subject to protection under the Act. Section 10 of the Act 
contains provisions for the issuance of incidental take permits to non-
Federal land owners for the take of endangered and threatened species, 
provided the take is incidental to otherwise lawful activities and will 
not appreciably reduce the likelihood of the survival and recovery of 
the species in the wild. In addition, the applicant must prepare and 
submit to the Services for approval a Plan containing a strategy for 
minimizing and mitigating take associated with the proposed activities 
to the maximum extent practicable. The applicant must also ensure that 
adequate funding for the Plan will be provided.
    The Services formally initiated an environmental review of the 
project through a Notice of Intent to prepare an EIS in the Federal 
Register on December 12, 1997 (62 FR 65437). This notice also announced 
a public scoping comment opportunity, during which other agencies, 
tribes, and the public were invited to provide comments and suggestions 
regarding issues and alternatives to be included in the EIS. Following 
this scoping period a draft EIS was prepared which considers the No 
Action alternative, the Proposed Plan, and two additional action 
alternatives.
    Under the No Action Alternative, incidental take permits would not 
be issued and Plum Creek would continue

[[Page 70697]]

a forest management program which complies with local, State, and 
Federal laws. Under Plum Creek's Proposed Plan, the Services would 
issue incidental take permits and Plum Creek would implement the Plan 
on their 1.7 million acres of timberlands. Under the Internal 
Conservation Plan alternative, Plum Creek would implement conservation 
measures designed to avoid take of currently listed species. Under the 
Simplified Prescription alternative, Plum Creek would implement 
riparian buffers and severely limit roads and livestock grazing on 
their lands. Conservation measures identified in the Plan alternative 
would not be implemented under any of the other alternatives.
    The No Action, Plum Creek's Proposed Plan, the Internal Plum Creek 
Plan, and the Simplified Prescriptions alternatives are analyzed in 
detail in the draft EIS.
    The Services will evaluate the application, associated documents, 
and comments received to determine whether the application meets the 
requirements of the ESA and NEPA. If it is determined that the 
requirements are met, a permit will be issued for the incidental take 
of listed species. The final permit decision will be made no sooner 
than 60 days from the date of this notice.

    Dated: December 7, 1999.
Anne Badgley,
Regional Director, Region 1, Fish and Wildlife Service.

    Dated: December 13, 1999.
Wanda L. Cain,
Chief, Endangered Species Division, Office of Protected Resources, 
National Marine Fisheries Service.
[FR Doc. 99-32778 Filed 12-16-99; 8:45 am]
BILLING CODES 3510-22-F, 4310-55-P