[Federal Register Volume 65, Number 80 (Tuesday, April 25, 2000)]
[Notices]
[Pages 24222-24223]
From the Federal Register Online via the Government Printing Office [www.gpo.gov]
[FR Doc No: 00-10239]


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DEPARTMENT OF THE INTERIOR

Fish and Wildlife Service


Availability of an Environmental Action Statement and Receipt of 
an Application for a Permit to Enhance the Survival of Hawaiian Goose 
or Nene Through a Safe Harbor Agreement for Reintroduction of the 
Species to Puu O Hoku Ranch, Molokai

AGENCY: Fish and Wildlife Service, Interior.

ACTION: Notice of availability.

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SUMMARY: Puu O Hoku Ranch, Limited has applied to the Fish and Wildlife 
Service (Service) for an enhancement of a survival permit pursuant to 
section 10(a)(1)(A) of the Endangered Species Act of 1973, as amended. 
The permit application includes a Safe Harbor Agreement (Agreement) 
between the Ranch, the Service, and the Hawaii Department of Land and 
Natural Resources. The proposed Agreement and permit application are 
available for public comment.
    The proposed Agreement allows for reintroduction and management of 
the endangered Hawaiian goose or nene (Branta sandvicensis) onto 
private land owned and managed by the Ranch on the island of Molokai. 
Nene historically occurred on Molokai, but do not currently exist in 
the wild on the island.

[[Page 24223]]

The proposed duration of the proposed Agreement is 7 years.
    The proposed permit would allow the Ranch to return to existing 
baseline conditions of zero nene; however, we anticipate that any nene 
taken would not be injured or harmed, but would be relocated to other 
suitable lands. We expect this proposed Agreement to result in a net 
conservation benefit by establishing a self-sustaining population of 
nene on Molokai.
    The Service has made a preliminary determination that the proposed 
Agreement and permit application are eligible for categorical exclusion 
under the National Environmental Policy Act of 1969. We explain the 
basis for this determination in an Environmental Action Statement, 
which also is available for public review.
    We request comments from the public on the permit application, 
proposed Agreement, and an Environmental Action Statement. All comments 
we receive, including names and addresses, will become part of the 
administrative record and may be released to the public.

DATES: Written comments should be received on or before May 25, 2000.

ADDRESSES: Comments should be addressed to Mr. Paul Henson, Field 
Supervisor, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, P.O. Box 50088, Honolulu, 
Hawaii 96850, facsimile (808) 541-3470.

FOR FURTHER INFORMATION CONTACT: Mr. Paul Henson at the above address 
or telephone 808-541-3470.

SUPPLEMENTARY INFORMATION:

Document Availability

    You may obtain copies of the documents for review by contacting the 
office named above. You also may make an appointment to view the 
documents at the above address during normal business hours.

Background

    Under a Safe Harbor Agreement, participating property owners 
voluntarily undertake management activities on their property to 
enhance, restore, or maintain habitat benefitting species listed under 
the Endangered Species Act. Safe Harbor Agreements encourage private 
and other non-Federal property owners to implement conservation efforts 
for listed species by assuring property owners they will not be 
subjected to increased property use restrictions if their efforts 
attract listed species to their property or increase the numbers or 
distribution of listed species already on their property. Application 
requirements and issuance criteria for enhancement of survival permits 
through Safe Harbor Agreements are found in 50 CFR 17.22(c).
    We have worked with Puu O Hoku Ranch and the Hawaii Department of 
Land and Natural Resources to develop the proposed Agreement for the 
reintroduction and management of the endangered Hawaiian goose or nene 
onto Cape Halawa at Puu O Hoku Ranch, Molokai. Prime habitat conditions 
for nene currently exist on more than 700 acres of Puu O Hoku Ranch. 
Under the proposed Agreement, the Ranch will: (1) Maintain or improve 
significant amounts of nene habitat by continuing cattle ranching 
operations that are compatible with maintenance of open, short grass 
habitat; (2) assist the Hawaii Department of Land and Natural Resources 
to establish and maintain release sites; (3) assist the Department to 
control predators at breeding and release sites; and (4) prohibit 
hunting in nene breeding areas.
    We anticipate that this proposed Agreement will result in the 
following benefits: (1) Establishment of a new population of nene in a 
remote area of Molokai, within their historic range, where they do not 
currently exist; (2) reduced risk of catastrophic loss of nene due to 
their increased range in the wild; (3) increased genetic diversity of 
nene; (4) increased number of nene in the wild (anticipated 75 
individuals on the ranch and 200 individuals island-wide); (5) greater 
understanding of the effectiveness of management techniques for nene; 
(6) and additional sources of nene for future management activities.
    Consistent with Safe Harbor policy, we propose to issue a permit to 
Puu O Hoku Ranch authorizing incidental take of all nene introduced to 
the enrolled lands, and their progeny, as a result of lawful activities 
at the Ranch. These activities include unintentional incidental take of 
nene from: (1) Cattle ranching; (2) eco-tourism; (3) recreational 
hunting of game birds on the ranch outside of Cape Halawa; and (4) 
cultivation of agricultural crops. We expect that the maximum level of 
incidental take authorized under the proposed Agreement will never be 
realized. The Ranch has no plans to change land uses. Further, we 
anticipate that any nene taken when the proposed Agreement expires will 
not be injured or harmed, but will be relocated, with permission from 
landowners, to other suitable lands. We fully expect that the release 
of nene on Puu O Hoku Ranch will result in the establishment of a self-
sustaining, permanent population of nene on Molokai. Therefore, the 
cumulative impact of the proposed Agreement and the activities it 
covers, which are facilitated by the allowable incidental take, will 
provide a net conservation benefit to the nene.
    We provide this notice pursuant to section 10(c) of the Endangered 
Species Act and pursuant to implementing regulations for the National 
Environmental Policy Act (40 CFR 1506.6). We will evaluate the permit 
application, associated documents, and comments submitted thereon to 
determine whether the permit application meets the requirements of 
section 10(a) of the Endangered Species Act and National Environmental 
Policy Act regulations. If we determine that the requirements are met, 
we will sign the proposed Agreement and issue an enhancement of 
survival permit under section 10(a)(1)(A) of the Endangered Species Act 
to Puu O Hoku Ranch for take of nene incidental to otherwise lawful 
activities in accordance with the terms of the Agreement. We will not 
make our final decision until after the end of the 30-day comment 
period and will fully consider all comments received during the comment 
period.

    Dated: April 19, 2000.
Richard A. Coleman,
Deputy Regional Director, Fish and Wildlife Service, Portland, Oregon.
[FR Doc. 00-10239 Filed 4-24-00; 8:45 am]
BILLING CODE 4310-55-P