[Federal Register Volume 70, Number 243 (Tuesday, December 20, 2005)]
[Notices]
[Pages 75473-75478]
From the Federal Register Online via the Government Printing Office [www.gpo.gov]
[FR Doc No: E5-7567]


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DEPARTMENT OF COMMERCE

National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration

DEPARTMENT OF THE INTERIOR

Fish and Wildlife Service

[I.D. 121305B]


Endangered and Threatened Species: Notice of Availability for the 
Final Recovery Plan for the Gulf of Maine Distinct Population Segment 
of Atlantic Salmon

AGENCIES: National Marine Fisheries Service, National Oceanic and 
Atmospheric Administration, Commerce; and United States Fish and 
Wildlife Service, Interior.

ACTION: Notice of Availability of recovery plan of Atlantic salmon.

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SUMMARY: The National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS) and the United 
States Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS)(collectively, the Services) 
announce the availability of the final recovery plan for the Gulf of 
Maine (GOM) distinct population segment (DPS) of Atlantic salmon (Salmo 
salar).

ADDRESSES: Requests for a copy of the final recovery plan should be 
addressed to the Atlantic Salmon Recovery Coordinator, NMFS, Northeast 
Regional Office, Protected Resources Division, One Blackburn Drive, 
Gloucester, MA 01930. A copy of the Final Recovery Plan can also be 
downloaded from the following web address: http://www.nmfs.noaa.gov/pr/
recovery.

FOR FURTHER INFORMATION CONTACT: Jessica Pruden, NMFS Atlantic Salmon 
Recovery Coordinator, (978) 281-9328 extension 6532.

SUPPLEMENTARY INFORMATION: The Endangered Species Act of 1973, as 
amended, (16 U.S.C. 1531 et seq.) (ESA) requires the development of 
recovery plans for listed species unless such a plan would not promote 
the recovery of a particular species. Recovery Plans describe actions 
considered necessary for the conservation and recovery of listed 
species, establish criteria for downlisting or delisting such species, 
and estimate the time and costs required to implement recovery actions. 
On December 17, 2000, the Services listed the GOM DPS of Atlantic 
salmon as endangered under the ESA (65 FR 69459). On June 18, 2004, the 
Services published a draft recovery plan for the DPS, and solicited 
public comments (69 FR 34184).
    The GOM DPS includes all naturally reproducing remnant populations 
of Atlantic salmon from the Kennebec River downstream of the former 
Edwards Dam site, northward to the mouth of the St. Croix River. DPS 
salmon taken for hatchery rearing for broodstock purposes and any 
captive progeny from these salmon are also included as part of the DPS. 
These hatchery-held fish, however, do not count toward delisting or 
reclassification goals as these goals refer to the status of naturally-
spawned salmon in the wild.
    At the time of listing, there were at least eight rivers in the 
geographic range of the GOM DPS known to still support wild Atlantic 
salmon populations: the Dennys, East Machias, Machias, Pleasant, 
Narraguagus, Ducktrap and Sheepscot Rivers, and Cove Brook. At the time 
of listing, the Services deferred a decision whether the DPS range 
included the mainstem of the Penobscot River and its tributaries above 
the former site of the Bangor Dam. Presently a status review is 
underway to determine the relationship of large river systems (e.g., 
the Penobscot and Kennebec Rivers) to the DPS as currently delineated. 
This review will also determine the status of current salmon 
populations within these large river systems, as well as any other 
additional salmon populations present outside the geographic range of 
the DPS. Decisions regarding the status of these populations may have 
significant implications for the recovery strategy and recovery 
criteria. The Services will consider the implications of these 
decisions and, if necessary, amend or modify the recovery plan 
accordingly.
    The GOM DPS has declined to critically low levels. Adult returns, 
and estimates of juvenile abundance and survival have continued to 
decline since the listing. In 2004, total adult returns to the eight 
rivers still supporting wild Atlantic salmon populations within the DPS 
were estimated to range from 60 to 113 individuals. Therefore, while 
full recovery will encompass the full range of the DPS from the 
Kennebec to the St. Croix River, the initial focus of the recovery 
program is to stabilize populations in the eight populations in the DPS 
that were extant at the time of the listing
    The recovery plan contains a synopsis of the biology and 
distribution of Atlantic salmon, a description of factors affecting 
species recovery, an outline of actions needed to recover the species, 
and an implementation schedule for completing the recovery tasks. The 
recovery plan, prepared with the assistance of the Maine Atlantic 
Salmon Commission (ASC), provides a framework for addressing a 
multitude of threats threatening the survival and conservation of the 
GOM DPS of Atlantic salmon.
    The Services published a notice of availability of the draft 
recovery plan for the GOM DPS of Atlantic salmon in the Federal 
Register on June 18, 2004 (69 FR 34184). The Services distributed the 
draft recovery plan for public review and comment. During the 90-day 
public comment period, the Services held two formal public hearings, as 
well as numerous meetings and briefings with Federal, state, local and 
private stakeholders to discuss the recovery plan and solicit comments.
    The Services received comments from a wide range of stakeholders 
and interested parties including state, Federal and local government 
agencies; local stakeholder groups; non-

[[Page 75474]]

governmental organizations; industry groups; and private citizens. The 
comments received ranged from endorsements of the plan to disagreement 
with specific as well as general elements contained in the plan. Many 
of the comments received provided technical corrections and additional 
information that the Services' considered and applied as appropriate in 
preparing the final recovery plan.
    The Maine ASC coordinated the review of the draft plan by state 
agencies. The state agencies involved in the plan review were the Maine 
ASC, Maine Department of Marine Resources (DMR), Maine Department of 
Inland Fisheries and Wildlife (IFW), Maine Department of Environmental 
Protection (DEP), Maine Department of Agriculture, Food, and Rural 
Resources (DAFRR), Maine Bureau of Pesticide Control (BPC), Maine 
Department of Conservation (DOC), Maine Bureau of Parks and Lands 
(BPL), Maine Forest Service (MFS), Maine Geological Service (MGS), 
Maine Department of Transportation (DOT), and Maine State Planning 
Office (SPO).
    In addition to public review, the recovery plan underwent peer-
review. The Services and the State identified and contacted 27 peer 
reviewers with specific technical and other relevant expertise, 
requesting review and comment on the draft recovery plan. These 
individuals were asked to review relevant sections of the plan for 
technical accuracy and completeness. The peer-reviewers were also asked 
to identify any specific issues or information that the Services should 
consider in the preparation of a final recovery plan. The Services 
received eight responses from the individuals contacted.
    In conjunction with efforts to prepare a final recovery plan, the 
Services and the Maine ASC conducted a 2-day Threats Assessment 
Workshop in December 2004. The Services assembled a team of technical 
experts from Maine ASC, NOAA Fisheries and USFWS to conduct a 
structured threats analysis to evaluate the geographic extent and life 
stage affected by threats, and the severity of these effects. During 
this workshop, the Services and workshop participants reviewed and 
considered the recommendations of the National Research Council's (NRC) 
(2004) report on Atlantic Salmon in Maine, as well as relevant public 
and peer review comments received during the comment period. The 
workshop resulted in the following threats being identified in the 
final recovery plan as high priority for action to reverse the decline 
of Atlantic salmon populations in the GOM DPS: (1) Acidified water and 
associated aluminum toxicity which decrease juvenile survival; (2) 
aquaculture practices, which pose ecological and genetic risks; (3) 
avian Predation; (4) changing land use patterns (e.g., development, 
agriculture, forestry); (5) climate change; (6) depleted diadromous 
fish communities; (7) incidental capture of adults and parr by 
recreational fishermen; (8) introduced fish species that compete or 
prey on Atlantic salmon; (9) low marine survival; (10) poaching of 
adults in DPS rivers; (11) recovery hatchery program (potential for 
artificial selection/domestication); (12) sedimentation; and (13) water 
extraction.
    The public and peer review comments received during the public 
comment period have been fully considered in the preparation of this 
recovery plan. In response to comments received, the Services have made 
revisions to the draft plan as appropriate. In addition, the Services 
have reviewed and considered the recommendations of the 2004 NRC report 
on Atlantic Salmon in Maine and incorporated the recommendations as 
appropriate.

Comments and Responses

    The majority of the comments received on the draft recovery plan 
were editorial and were incorporated as received. More substantive 
comments and responses to these comments are summarized below.

Threats Assessment

    Comment 1: A number of comments were submitted questioning the 
relationship between the threats assessment and the text related to 
those identified threats and/or their priorities in the implementation 
table. It was suggested that better documentation of the risk 
assessment method used to identify the top threats would be instructive 
for the reader. Others commented that some of the threats were more 
applicable to some watersheds and not to others. Finally, some 
questioned the estimates of costs in the Implementation Schedule and 
the State of Maine suggested that they could assist the Federal 
Services, with the assistance of the Recovery Team, to refine these 
estimates.
    Response: A workshop was held with state and Federal agency experts 
to conduct a threats assessment. The purpose of this workshop was to 
address the concerns submitted by the public with the goal of expanding 
the section of the recovery plan to include an explanation of the 
process utilized and factors considered in conducting the threats 
assessment. Another goal was to attempt to link the threats assessment 
to the implementation schedule and to ensure consistency in addressing 
threats throughout the body of the recovery plan. The final plan 
includes a revised threat assessment that was the product of the 
workshop mentioned above.

Water Use

    Comment 2: Some comments recommended that the plan take a broader 
approach to addressing water use related to hydrologic manipulation of 
river flow. Others stated that the terms ``excessive or unregulated 
withdrawals'' were not accurate or instructive and stated that the Plan 
did not adequately acknowledge the existing state regulatory programs 
that are in place to guard against threats to habitat due to water 
withdrawal. It was suggested that too much emphasis was placed on water 
withdrawal in the plan and that the plan should focus on a solution-
based approach as agreed to by private and public, state and Federal 
partners in the Downeast Rivers Water Use Management Plan (WUMP) 
developed under the State Atlantic Salmon Conservation Plan instead of 
focusing on water-use permitting.
    The Downeast Salmon Federation (DSF) commented that the draft plan 
should specifically state that the Water Use Management Plan (WUMP) is 
not comprehensive enough to truly deserve the name, and that a reader 
of the recovery plan unfamiliar with the WUMP might conclude that these 
``plans'' address cumulative as well as individual withdrawals. DSF 
commented that the WUMP actually addresses only those withdrawals made 
by the larger industry users and does not do a thorough or 
precautionary job of planning or managing water use in these 
watersheds. Lastly, DSF commented that the documents referred to as the 
WUMP provide a basis from which to move forward, but are lacking in 
addressing the impact of the full range of irrigators within these 
watersheds.
    Response: The Recovery Plan endorses the implementation of the WUMP 
as an important recovery action for the DPS. The Services agree with 
the comment that the practical threat of water use is much less today 
than it was in 1995 when the State Conservation Plan was being 
developed. As explained in the draft recovery plan, the WUMP is a 
significant accomplishment and provides an excellent foundation as a 
planning document. In order for it to be effective as a tool for the 
protection and recovery of Atlantic salmon, however, the WUMP needs to 
be endorsed by the

[[Page 75475]]

state regulatory agencies and consistently applied in the State of 
Maine in both organized and unorganized territories. While voluntary 
compliance with the WUMP by growers may be reducing the practical 
threat of water withdrawals to salmon and their habitat today, it does 
not provide security into the future that this threat will remain 
reduced.

Forestry

    Comment 3: Some comments were submitted concurring with the 
conclusion in the draft plan that current timber harvesting activities 
do not represent a significant threat under current management measures 
and harvest practices. Other commenters questioned the basis for this 
conclusion. They cited the following potential impacts from forest 
practices: sedimentation, thermal loading, altering water chemistry, 
altering hydrology and limiting large woody debris. Other commenters 
raised concerns that changes in land ownership could lead to increased 
harvesting and impacts to Atlantic salmon and their habitat. One 
comment requested that the Services review the state laws that govern 
forest management and timber harvesting and another comment 
specifically stated that the State of Maine's Forest Practices Act 
provides little protection to smaller order streams. In addition, some 
stated that there was little to no enforcement of existing forest laws 
and regulations. Some commenters contend that the draft plan does not 
adequately describe the forestry issue. DSF stated that forestry 
practices impact watershed productivity particularly when first order 
streams do not receive adequate protection from cutting activities. 
These commenters state that these streams receive the least protection 
under current law and the least emphasis under current conservation 
easement strategies and as a result these water bodies are experiencing 
the most abuse and neglect.
    Response: In the recovery plan the Services acknowledge that 
forestry practices can negatively impact Atlantic salmon habitat. Due 
to state laws and best management practices (BMPs), widespread problems 
with forestry practices have not been documented. These impacts can 
occur, however, and in some cases the protective measures currently in 
place are best management practices that are not regulatory in nature. 
In general, landowners are required to protect water quality and to 
utilize best management practices to ensure that water quality is not 
negatively impacted by harvesting. The BMPs are not prescriptive in 
nature, however, and instead require what is necessary to achieve the 
outcome of preventing negative impacts to water quality. Foresters are 
provided with a range of BMPs and training in those techniques, but the 
ultimate decision of what specific techniques to apply is left to their 
discretion in light of the site specific circumstances. We acknowledge 
that land ownership patterns are changing in Maine and we cannot take 
for granted the excellent relationship we have had with landowners in 
the past who have voluntarily adopted protective measures for Atlantic 
salmon. Efforts to work with new landowners are ongoing and Project 
SHARE has been very instrumental in this effort. It will be important 
during implementation of the recovery plan for the Services to continue 
to work with landowners and the Maine Forest Service to ensure that 
salmon habitat is not negatively impacted by forestry practices.

Land Acquisition and Riparian Buffers

    Comment 4: Some suggested land acquisition and conservation 
easements should be pursued in areas that are threatened with serious, 
immediate, development pressure, where the relationship between 
specific land use changes and habitat degradation is firmly established 
and where high value habitat is at risk. Others argued that the case 
for riparian buffer protection is based on the presumed impacts of 
sedimentation, removal of shade and associated increases in stream 
temperature, alteration of natural processes that create large woody 
debris, low dissolved oxygen from nutrient enrichment, runoff of 
chemical contaminants from agricultural and silvicultural lands. These 
individuals asserted that there is little evidence that these potential 
impacts are actually a threat to the GOM DPS.
    Response: The available scientific literature provides a strong 
basis for the need for a riparian buffer zone to prevent adverse 
impacts to water quality. Purchasing all of the land in the riparian 
habitat in the Gulf of Maine DPS of Atlantic salmon is not possible and 
is not necessary for salmon protection and recovery. The major focus of 
the GOM DPS recovery program is to ensure that buffers are adequate in 
a particular region to prevent adverse impacts to water quality in that 
region. For example, if Atlantic salmon in a particular stream is 
threatened by elevated temperatures, but not threatened by 
sedimentation, then riparian buffers should be in place to prevent 
increases in water temperature but necessarily to reduce sedimentation. 
Our focus is, therefore, on ensuring that regulations and best 
management practices to protect water quality are fully implemented and 
evaluated. Where opportunities present themselves, the purchase of land 
and conservation easements has been and likely will continue to be an 
important tool in the effort to protect important riparian areas 
adjacent to salmon habitat.

Aquaculture

    Comment 5: Comments were provided stating that the section in the 
draft plan on aquaculture was outdated and requesting that the final 
recovery plan acknowledge progress made to address the threat of 
aquaculture. Other comments identified areas where actions to address 
the threat from aquaculture needed to be strengthened and specifically 
cited disease management, the establishment of aquaculture free-zones 
and bay management planning.
    Response: We have updated the section in the recovery plan related 
to aquaculture. As noted in the comments, the Services have been 
working with the aquaculture industry and the State of Maine for a 
number of years to implement measures to minimize the potential for 
aquaculture practices to negatively impact Atlantic salmon and their 
habitat. As correctly noted in the comments, significant progress has 
been made recently to incorporate a number of these protective measures 
in permit conditions. Aquaculture free-zones have been considered, but 
not implemented due to the lack of adequate sites sufficiently removed 
from the Gulf of Maine DPS. Bay management planning is an excellent 
tool for ensuring that aquaculture practices are well coordinated and 
that cumulative impacts are identified and assessed. We have included a 
discussion on bay management in the final recovery plan.

Habitat Quality and Restoration

    Comment 6: Comments were submitted stating that the recovery plan 
needed to identify habitat as a limiting factor to Atlantic salmon 
throughout Maine and placing habitat restoration as a top priority. One 
comment stated that poor large parr survival indicated that habitat in 
the rivers may be marginal and that greater emphasis should be placed 
on investigating this further. Comments suggested that a greater 
emphasis needed to be placed on restoring the structure and function of 
these rivers. Another comment recommended that the size and scale of 
riparian buffer zones needs to be carefully assessed to determine if 
they

[[Page 75476]]

are adequate to meet the needs of Atlantic salmon and the rest of the 
ecosystem.
    Response: The plan does identify habitat quality as a significant 
threat to the recovery of Atlantic salmon. As explained in the plan, 
assessment activities have documented significant mortality occurring 
to large parr during their last winter in the river, and to also smolts 
are they migrate out of the river. These research findings indicate 
that there are problems with habitat quality. Research and management 
efforts are now concentrated on specifically identifying limiting 
factors in the freshwater, estuarine and marine environments. Examples 
include assessment of embeddedness and substrate permeability and its 
relationship to productivity and consideration of a pilot liming study 
to evaluate the benefits of buffering the river as smolts migrate into 
saltwater. In addition, the final recovery plan discusses the need to 
investigate the potential role of diminished habitat complexity in the 
conservation of the DPS.

Ecosystem Restoration

    Comment 7: Comments recommended that the plan needed to go further 
in incorporating an ecosystem approach to recovering the DPS and should 
consider rivers as entire systems. One comment stated that non-native 
species should not be stocked into rivers within the DPS and another 
recommended pursing the restoration of alewives. Other comments stated 
that to restore salmon we need to restore the other species with which 
it co-evolved over the years.
    Response: The goal of the Endangered Species Act is to conserve the 
ecosystems upon which endangered and threatened species depend. The 
plan acknowledges that recovery of endangered Atlantic salmon depends 
on recovery of the rivers, estuaries and marine environment. Recovery 
includes restoration of other diadromous species which provide 
important benefits to Atlantic salmon including serving as predator 
buffers and contributing marine derived nutrients to the ecosystem.

Changing Land-Use Patterns

    Comment 8: A comment recommended that changing land-use patterns 
(i.e., development and sprawl) needs to be addressed more thoroughly in 
the plan. It was also suggested that habitat protection needs to be 
guided by an ecosystem management approach that looks at what is 
happening across the landscape. One comment stated that if the long 
term effects of historical land-use and impacts from current land-use 
are not addressed rapidly and aggressively we will not see the 
restoration of self-sustaining Atlantic salmon populations in Maine.
    Response: The recovery plan focuses on threats to Atlantic salmon 
habitat so the impacts of changing land-use patterns are addressed in a 
variety of sections. As noted in the comment, development can impact 
Atlantic salmon habitat by contributing sediments, chemicals and 
nutrients and increasing water temperature. Land-use changes will 
continue to be monitored during implementation of the recovery plan 
with a focus on how those changes increase impacts to salmon habitat.

Stakeholder and Community Involvement

    Comment 9: Comments stated that the plan does not identify many 
areas where non-agency organizations and stakeholders are involved and 
recommended that the plan identify more ways to include stakeholders 
and the local knowledge that these individuals and groups possess. 
Another comment stated that the Watershed Councils are essential for 
salmon recovery and must have the backing of state and Federal agencies 
involved in salmon restoration. It further suggested that the 
``Implementation Schedule'' should include funding to support the full 
time staff needed to keep the Watershed Councils functioning as an 
effective component of salmon restoration efforts.
    Response: The recovery plan acknowledges the critical role that 
local citizens and organizations have and will continue to play in 
recovery of Atlantic salmon. These individuals serve as the eyes and 
ears in these watersheds and are frequently the first to identify 
specific habitat problems that need to be addressed and opportunities 
for habitat enhancement. The implementation schedule identifies the 
actions at the local level and the funding estimated to be necessary to 
carry out those activities. Included in these estimates are the 
personnel resources needed to carry out these tasks.

Hatcheries

    Comment 10: A number of comments were submitted on the existing 
hatchery program. One comment suggested that the plan identify the need 
to assess whether hatchery-reared fish, which are essentially land-
locked, are capable of transitioning to saltwater water. Another 
comment suggested that there should not be a ``broodstock retirement'' 
program as currently exists and that instead these brood fish should be 
producing progeny for other rivers to establish experimental 
populations. It was suggested that stocking of additional streams might 
provide a surprising result in terms of a few returning adults and 
perhaps a catch and release fishery at some point in the future which 
could go a long way toward rebuilding popular support for the recovery 
program as a whole.
    Response: The recovery plan supports the recommendation from the 
2004 NRC report that the hatchery program should be reviewed. The 
issues identified above, including the source of the fish taken into 
the hatchery, the use of spent broodstock, life stage to be stocked, 
and evaluation of hatchery products should all be included in a review 
as recommended in the final recovery plan. The recovery plan also 
includes a recommendation to evaluate additional stocking in other 
rivers within the DPS.

West Greenland Fishery

    Comment 11: A comment suggested that the management and 
establishment of commercial quotas should not be left solely up to 
NASCO and stated that NASCO failed to follow advice from the 
International Council for the Exploration of the Sea (ICES) to adopt 
the zero quota for the WGF in 2001 and 2002. It suggested that the plan 
recommend a continued suspension of a commercial fishery for Atlantic 
salmon until such time as rivers within the United States have self-
sustaining populations. It further recommended that the recovery plan 
explicitly support the existing 5-year Greenland Conservation agreement 
and call for the continued elimination of the West Greenland Fishery as 
a priority recovery action.
    Response: NASCO is the international organization created with the 
purpose of international coordination and cooperation for Atlantic 
salmon conservation and management. It is the forum for the Untied 
States to engage Denmark, on behalf of Greenland, in discussions on 
management of Atlantic salmon fisheries. The recovery plan identifies 
the commercial catch of Atlantic salmon off the coast of Greenland as a 
threat to the recovery of the Gulf of Maine DPS. The model utilized by 
ICES to provide management advice to NASCO estimates pre-fishery 
abundance off Greenland and subtracts the spawning escapement needs for 
all the rivers represented in that mixed stock and then allocates a 
portion of the remainder to the Greenland fishery. While this, in 
theory, offers adequate protection to all stocks contributing to the 
mixed stock off Greenland, some stocks may be disproportionately

[[Page 75477]]

affected by the fishery. For instance, if Canadian and Northern 
European stocks recovery more quickly than U.S. and Southern European 
stocks then the pre-fishery abundance may increase enough to allow for 
a commercial harvest off Greenland yet the stocks in the southern 
portion of the range may still be significantly lower than spawning 
escapement goals. Continued involvement in the international management 
forum and involvement of conservation organizations is necessary to 
ensure adequate protection of U.S. stocks.

Penobscot and Other Large Rivers

    Comment 12: Several commenters stated that the Recovery Plan does 
not adequately address the relationship and importance of the Penobscot 
to the listed rivers. These comments stated that this is a serious 
omission in the draft recovery plan, and that the recovery plan's 
failure to adequately recognize the importance of the Penobscot to the 
listed rivers is a serious omission and needs to be rectified in the 
final plan. Likewise, the plan needs to look at the role of Maine's 
other large salmon rivers, particularly those within the geographic 
range of the DPS, i.e., the Kennebec, Androscoggin and St. Croix 
rivers, as well as the Saco River.
    Response: The recovery plan is for the listed entity the Gulf of 
Maine DPS of Atlantic salmon that was listed in 2000. At the time of 
the listing, the mainstem Penobscot River was excluded from the Gulf of 
Maine DPS due to outstanding data and analysis. The plan properly 
focuses on the threats to Atlantic salmon and their habitat as listed 
and identifies actions necessary to avoid or minimize those threats in 
the future.

Acid Rain

    Comment 13: A comment offered support for efforts to mitigate the 
effects of acid rain on the DPS, but stated that the draft plan does 
not place adequate emphasis on mitigating the underlying causes of acid 
rain. The comment recommended that the Services place a high priority 
on consulting with the EPA on identifying point sources of air 
pollution contributing to acid rain.
    Response: The available information on acid deposition in Maine 
indicates that, as a result of air pollution regulations, acid 
deposition is decreasing. The current problems appear to be caused by 
the removal of buffering capacity in these rivers over time which now 
allows acid pulses to cause effects to Atlantic salmon. The mitigation 
effort appears to be necessary to provide buffering capacity until such 
time as the habitat recovers from the years of significant acid rain 
deposition and leaching of buffering capacity from the watersheds.

Elevated Water Temperature

    Comment 14: A comment stated that the draft recovery plan does not 
adequately discuss the threat of elevated water temperature.
    Response: There is no question in the literature as to the negative 
effects of high temperature. The best available data seems to show a 
significant number of days when the temperature goes above the 
thresholds for feeding and survival. The draft recovery plan identifies 
elevated water temperature as a threat to Atlantic salmon. As noted in 
the comment, temperatures have been recorded at levels higher than that 
preferred and sometimes even tolerable for salmon. The recovery plan 
also identifies activities that can cause increased water temperature 
including removal of vegetation in the riparian zone and water 
withdrawals.

Education

    Comment 15: A comment stated that education is an essential 
component to species or population restoration and will require 
substantial investment and commitment on the part of all of the players 
in this recovery. The commenter stated that the recovery plan's 
implementation schedule lacks funding and commitment for education.
    Response: The Recovery Plan states that education and outreach 
programs are a critical component of successful conservation and 
recovery plans. The Recovery Plan states that public information and 
outreach programs help build public support and a strong constituency 
for Atlantic salmon recovery and conservation in Maine. The Recovery 
Plan recommends that efforts to increase and improve public awareness 
of Atlantic salmon conservation should continue through media, 
educational material, public forums and workshops, demonstration 
projects and technical assistance. The Recovery Plan notes that 
virtually all successful conservation programs include education and 
public outreach programs. Public awareness is important to the success 
of Atlantic salmon recovery efforts in Maine.
    The Recovery Plan states that education and outreach programs 
inform the general public and interested parties, such as land owners, 
business and industry, state and local government about the Atlantic 
salmon recovery process. Education and information campaigns help 
promote Atlantic salmon as an important national resource and encourage 
individual and group involvement in the recovery process. The Recovery 
Plan recommends that a comprehensive and coordinated Education and 
Outreach Plan for the Gulf of Maine DPS of Atlantic salmon should be 
developed. This plan should include a strategy to coordinate the 
efforts of Federal, state and local organizations currently involved in 
education and outreach programs. The plan should identify target 
audiences, review existing programs and materials, evaluate the role of 
public display of Atlantic salmon, identify education and outreach 
needs, identify responsibilities and costs and develop strategies for 
dissemination of information and materials.

Governance

    Comment 16: A comment suggested that the plan should include a 
discussion on governance and referenced the 2004 NRC report which also 
suggested that this issue should be investigated. The comment suggested 
that the Services should pull language from the 2004 NRC report and the 
comments received to help create this new section. The DSF suggests a 
review of the literature on the topic of natural resource ``co 
management'' and referenced lobster fisheries co-management in Maine as 
one example of an alternative and reasonably successful structure that 
should be reviewed.
    Response: The Recovery Plan recommends that Federal and state 
agencies and local governments should continue to work cooperatively to 
recover the DPS. Where necessary, interagency communication and 
coordination should be strengthened. Existing coordination and 
communication mechanisms between Federal and state agencies and local 
conservation organizations and other constituency groups should be 
reviewed and strengthened. The Plan acknowledges that there are many 
organizations and groups involved in the protection and recovery of 
Atlantic salmon. Ensuring inter-organizational coordination and 
communication mechanisms are in place will increase the effectiveness 
and efficiency of these groups. The implementation schedule in the 
recovery plan identifies responsible entities for each of the recovery 
plan actions. There are a number of organizations, agencies, 
individuals and industries involved in Atlantic salmon protection and 
recovery as noted in the 2004 NRC report. By assigning responsibility 
appropriately for carrying out activities, the plan describes roles for 
each of these groups in recovery

[[Page 75478]]

implementation. The recovery plan implementation team will also 
coordinate actions and help reduce the potential for overlap. The 
Recovery Plan has been revised to include an expanded discussion of the 
issue of governance as it relates to the recovery of the DPS. The 
Services agree that the complexity of the multiple state, Federal, 
local and private groups involved in salmon recovery or related 
activities presents specific challenges that must be addressed if 
recovery is to be successful.

River-Specific Recovery Planning

    Comment 17: Several comments stated that the recovery plan did not 
address recovery action at a river-specific scale. These individual 
state that the plan does not make any attempt to address individual 
rivers, identify unique threats to salmon in each and describe actions 
necessary to address each threat. In addition, the comments state that 
the threats identified in the plan are not the most important in all 
watersheds.
    Response: The Recovery Plan considers threats to the DPS at a 
river-specific scale and discusses regional differences that exist 
between various watersheds and regions in Maine. The Recovery Plan 
identifies site-specific management actions for all the threats the 
Services have identified under section 4(a)(1) of the ESA five-factor 
analysis. The Services acknowledge that the Recovery Plan does not 
present comprehensive river specific recovery strategies for each of 
the rivers still known to support wild salmon populations. The Services 
agree that recovery implementation may be further facilitated by the 
development of watershed or river-specific management plans that would 
include and highlight those threats and accompanying actions applicable 
within that particular area. The Recovery Plan acknowledges ongoing 
recovery implementation activities that are currently responsive to the 
specific circumstances within individual watersheds (e.g., NPS surveys, 
nutrient management plans in the Sheepscot, liming project Downeast). 
Management plans for specific issues of concern have been developed, or 
are envisioned, for many of the rivers and watersheds within the DPS. 
For example, the Maine ASC has been working to develop river-specific 
fisheries management plans for individual DPS rivers. The State of 
Maine, working in cooperation with multiple public and private 
partners, has developed a water use management plan (WUMP) for the 
Narraguagus and Pleasant rivers and for Mopang Stream (a tributary to 
the Machias River). The WUMP was developed to address a specific issue 
(i.e., agricultural water use) that was a concern in these three 
rivers. In a number of instances, local conservation organizations have 
begun the process of developing river-specific management plans for 
specific issues.

Pesticides

    Comment 18: The Services received a number of comments related to 
pesticides. Comments provided by the State of Maine questioned the 
factual basis of statements in the draft plan that drift of hexazinone 
from aerial applications has been documented. The State stated that it 
had no documentation of hexazinone drift in its records. The DSF 
commented that the plan did not adequately present the extent of 
pesticide use and the threat to the DPS posed by DPS by this activity. 
The Services received comments that the threat from pesticides warrants 
consultation between the Services and the EPA on the effects of 
pesticide registration on the DPS. This commenter stated that 
pesticides should not be used until this consultation has taken place. 
Further, these comments stated the view that the recovery plan does not 
place a high enough priority on measures to control pesticide use. 
Lastly, the comments stated that no pesticides can be discharged into 
DPS waters without a CWA, NPDES permit.
    Response: The Services have revised the recovery plan based on 
public comments received. An assessment of the magnitude and severity 
of the threat posed to the survival and recovery of the DPS by chemical 
contaminants resulted in the conclusion that pesticides currently are 
not a high-level threat to the DPS recovery. The recovery plan 
identifies a number of recovery actions related to continued monitoring 
of any threat to the DPS related to pesticides. Should water quality or 
other data indicate that pesticides applied in accordance with approved 
labeling instructions may be adversely affecting the DPS, the Services 
will consult with the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to 
address any potential impact to the DPS.

Implementation of the Plan

    NMFS and the FWS are committed to the implementation of the Gulf of 
Maine DPS of Atlantic salmon Recovery Plan. The recovery plan may be 
revised in the future on the basis of new information. Public notice 
and an opportunity for public review and comment would be provided 
prior to final approval of a revised recovery plan.

Authority

    The authority for this action is section 4(f) of the Endangered 
Species Act (16 U.S.C. 1531 et seq.)

    Dated: December 14, 2005.
Angela Somma,
Chief, Endangered Species Division, National Marine Fisheries Service.

    Dated: December 2, 2005.
Marvin E. Moriarty,
Regional Director, Region 5U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.
[FR Doc. E5-7567 Filed 12-19-05; 8:45 am]
BILLING CODE 3510-22-S