Endangered and Threatened Wildlife and Plants; Enhancement of Survival Permit Application; Draft Oil and Gas Candidate Conservation Agreement With Assurances for the Lesser Prairie-Chicken; Draft Environmental Assessment, 76639-76641 [2013-30196]

Download as PDF Federal Register / Vol. 78, No. 243 / Wednesday, December 18, 2013 / Notices prohibits activities with endangered and threatened species unless a Federal permit allows such activity. The Act requires that we invite public comment before issuing these permits. DATES: To ensure consideration, please send your written comments by January 17, 2014. ADDRESSES: You may submit comments or requests for copies or more information by any of the following methods. Alternatively, you may use one of the following methods to request hard copies or a CD–ROM of the documents. Please specify the permit you are interested in by number (e.g., Permit No. TE–XXXXXX). • Email: permitsR6ES@fws.gov. Please refer to the respective permit number (e.g., Permit No. TE–XXXXXX) in the subject line of the message. • U.S. Mail: Ecological Services, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, P.O. Box 25486–DFC, Denver, CO 80225. • In-Person Drop-Off, Viewing, or Pickup: Call (303) 236–4212 to make an appointment during regular business hours at 134 Union Blvd., Suite 645, Lakewood, CO 80228. FOR FURTHER INFORMATION CONTACT: Kathy Konishi, Permit Coordinator, Ecological Services, (303) 236–4212 (phone); permitsR6ES@fws.gov (email). SUPPLEMENTARY INFORMATION: ehiers on DSK2VPTVN1PROD with NOTICES Background The Act (16 U.S.C. 1531 et seq.) prohibits activities with endangered and threatened species unless a Federal permit allows such activity. Along with our implementing regulations in the Code of Federal Regulations (CFR) at 50 CFR 17, the Act provides for permits and requires that we invite public comment before issuing these permits. A permit granted by us under section 10(a)(1)(A) of the Act authorizes the permittees to conduct activities with U.S. endangered or threatened species for scientific purposes, enhancement of propagation or survival, or interstate commerce (the latter only in the event that it facilitates scientific purposes or enhancement of propagation or survival). Our regulations implementing section 10(a)(1)(A) for these permits are found at 50 CFR 17.22 for endangered wildlife species, 50 CFR 17.32 for threatened wildlife species, 50 CFR 17.62 for endangered plant species, and 50 CFR 17.72 for threatened plant species. Applications Available for Review and Comment We invite local, State, and Federal agencies and the public to comment on the following applications. Documents VerDate Mar<15>2010 15:27 Dec 17, 2013 Jkt 232001 and other information the applicants have submitted with their applications are available for review, subject to the requirements of the Privacy Act (5 U.S.C. 552a) and Freedom of Information Act (5 U.S.C. 552). Permit Application Number TE070027 Applicant: Tern and Plover Conservation Partnership, 516 Hardin Hall, 3310 Holdrege St., University of Nebraska, Lincoln, NE. The applicant requests the renewal of a permit to conduct presence/absence surveys and banding of interior least terns (Sterna antillarum athalassos) in Nebraska for the purpose of enhancing the species’ survival. Permit Application Number TE094832 Applicant: U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, Federal Hydropower Facility, 399 Powerhouse Rd., Pickstown, SD. The applicant requests the renewal of a permit for public educational display of pallid sturgeon (Scaphirynchus albus) for the purpose of enhancing the species’ survival. Permit Application Number TE069553 Applicant: U.S. Forest Service, Wall Ranger District, 708 Main St., Wall, SD. The applicant requests the renewal of an existing permit to take black-footed ferret (Mustela nigripes) in conjunction with recovery activities in South Dakota for the purpose of enhancing its survival and recovery. National Environmental Policy Act In compliance with the National Environmental Policy Act (42 U.S.C. 4321 et seq.), we have made an initial determination that the proposed activities in these permits are categorically excluded from the requirement to prepare an environmental assessment or environmental impact statement (516 DM 6 Appendix 1, 1.4C(1)). Public Availability of Comments All comments and materials we receive in response to these requests will be available for public inspection, by appointment, during normal business hours at the address listed in the ADDRESSES section of this notice. 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 ask us in your comment PO 00000 Frm 00047 Fmt 4703 Sfmt 4703 76639 to withhold your personal identifying information from public review, we cannot guarantee that we will be able to do so. Authority We provide this notice under section 10 of the Act (16 U.S.C. 1531 et seq.). Dated: December 11, 2013. Nicole Alt, Acting Assistant Regional Director, MountainPrairie Region. [FR Doc. 2013–30064 Filed 12–17–13; 8:45 am] BILLING CODE 4310–55–P DEPARTMENT OF THE INTERIOR Fish and Wildlife Service [FWS–R6–ES–2013–N268; FF06E24000– XXX–FRES48010660150] Endangered and Threatened Wildlife and Plants; Enhancement of Survival Permit Application; Draft Oil and Gas Candidate Conservation Agreement With Assurances for the Lesser Prairie-Chicken; Draft Environmental Assessment Fish and Wildlife Service, Interior. ACTION: Notice of availability; request for comments. AGENCY: We, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (Service), received an application for an enhancement of survival permit (permit) under the Endangered Species Act of 1973, as amended (ESA), for take associated with implementation of a lesser prairiechicken Candidate Conservation Agreement with Assurances (CCAA) throughout the species’ range in Kansas, Colorado, Oklahoma, New Mexico, and Texas. The intent of the CCAA is to provide the oil and gas industry with the opportunity to voluntarily conserve the lesser prairie-chicken and its habitat, in a manner that would contribute to precluding the need to list the species, while carrying out their oil and gas activities. The Western Association of Fish and Wildlife Agencies (WAFWA) is the permit applicant and proposes to convey incidental take authorization to oil and gas companies that enroll in the CCAA through certificates of inclusion. Pursuant to the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA), we have prepared a draft environmental assessment (EA) that analyzes the potential impacts of issuance of the permit and implementation of the proposed CCAA, as well as two alternatives to the proposed action. The permit application, draft CCAA, and draft EA SUMMARY: E:\FR\FM\18DEN1.SGM 18DEN1 ehiers on DSK2VPTVN1PROD with NOTICES 76640 Federal Register / Vol. 78, No. 243 / Wednesday, December 18, 2013 / Notices are available for public review, and we seek public comment on these documents and potential issuance of the permit. DATES: Written comments must be submitted by January 17, 2014. ADDRESSES: Send written comments to Field Supervisor, Colorado Ecological Services Field Office, 134 Union Blvd., Ste. 670, Lakewood, CO 80228; or via email to lesserprairiechicken@fws.gov. The draft CCAA and EA are available for review on our Mountain-Prairie Region Ecological Services Web site at http:// www.fws.gov/coloradoes/. You also may review copies of these documents by appointment during regular business hours at the following offices: (a) Colorado Ecological Services Field Office (ESFO) (see address above), (303) 236–4773; (b) Kansas ESFO, 2609 Anderson Ave., Manhattan, KS 66502, (785) 539–3474; (c) Oklahoma ESFO, 9014 East 21 St., Tulsa, OK 74129, (918) 382–4501; (d) Austin, Texas ESFO, 10711 Burnet Rd., Suite 200, Austin, TX 78758, (512) 490–0057; (e) Arlington, Texas ESFO, 2005 NE Green Oaks Blvd., Suite 140, Arlington, TX 76006, (817) 277–1100; and (f) New Mexico ESFO, 2105 Osuna NE., Albuquerque, NM 87113, (505) 346–2525. If you do not have access to the Web site or cannot visit our office, you may request copies by telephone at (303) 236–4773 or by letter to the Colorado ESFO. FOR FURTHER INFORMATION CONTACT: Leslie Ellwood, Fish and Wildlife Biologist, Colorado Ecological Services Field Office, (303) 236–4747; leslie_ ellwood@fws.gov. SUPPLEMENTARY INFORMATION: A CCAA is an agreement in which private and other non-Federal landowners voluntarily agree to undertake management activities and conservation efforts on their properties to enhance, restore, or maintain habitat to benefit species that are proposed for listing under the ESA, that are candidates for listing, or that may become candidates. If we approve the CCAA, we will issue an associated enhancement of survival permit, under section 10(a)(1)(A) of the ESA (16 U.S.C. 1531 et seq.), that authorizes incidental take resulting from covered activities should the species addressed in the CCAA become listed. Through the CCAA and permit, we also provide assurances to participating landowners that we will not impose additional land, water, or financial commitments or restrictions on land, water, or resource use, as a result of efforts to attract or increase the numbers or distribution of a species on their property if that species becomes listed VerDate Mar<15>2010 15:27 Dec 17, 2013 Jkt 232001 under the ESA in the future. Application requirements and issuance criteria for enhancement of survival permits through a CCAA are found in 50 CFR 17.22(d) and 17.32(d), as well as 50 CFR part 13. Under the proposed range-wide CCAA, participating members of the oil and gas industry (Participants) would implement conservation measures that avoid, minimize, and mitigate impacts to the lesser prairie-chicken and their habitat from oil and gas activities on enrolled lands. The Service would issue the permit to WAFWA, who would administer the CCAA and enroll the Participants. The CCAA would be in effect for 30 years. The CCAA would cover non-Federal lands within the current range of the lesser prairiechicken, plus a 10-mile buffer around the current range. Any non-Federal lands within lesser prairie-chicken habitat in the covered area may be eligible for enrollment under the proposed CCAA. The CCAA proposes to implement WAFWA’s Lesser Prairie-chicken Range-wide Plan (Range-wide Plan), which the Service endorsed and WAFWA finalized in October 2013. The Range-wide Plan’s conservation framework provides for financial incentives to landowners who voluntarily manage their lands to benefit the species. It also includes conservation measures to avoid, minimize, and mitigate impacts specific to current and anticipated land-use activities within the species’ range, including oil and gas development. The Range-wide Plan contains a detailed mitigation fee structure that incentivizes locating impact activities outside of lesser prairie-chicken habitat or within lower quality habitat rather than within medium or high quality habitat. The proposed CCAA incorporates the Rangewide Plan’s conservation measures and mitigation fees pertaining to oil and gas activities. Enrollment of lands with habitat impacted by oil and gas activities into the CCAA is intended to generate mitigation fees that will significantly help fund implementation of conservation actions under the Range-wide Plan for the lesser prairiechicken throughout its range. With issuance of the enhancement of survival permit, the Service would provide WAFWA and the Participants assurances that, should the lesser prairie-chicken be listed, no further commitments or restrictions than those they committed to under the CCAA would be imposed, as long as the CCAA is properly implemented. Furthermore, if the lesser prairie-chicken is listed, the permit would provide WAFWA with PO 00000 Frm 00048 Fmt 4703 Sfmt 4703 incidental take authorization. Participants would also receive take authorization through their certificates of inclusion under the permit. The permit would become effective on the effective date of a listing of the lesser prairie-chicken as endangered or threatened and would continue through the end of the CCAA term. Background The lesser prairie-chicken currently inhabits rangelands dominated primarily by shinnery oak-bluestem and sand sagebrush-bluestem vegetation. Major factors affecting the status of the lesser prairie-chicken are habitat fragmentation, overutilization of habitat by domestic livestock, oil and gas development, wind energy development, loss of native rangelands to cropland conversion, herbicide use, fire suppression, and drought. On June 9, 1998, we determined that listing of the lesser prairie-chicken under the ESA was warranted but precluded by other higher priority actions (63 FR 31400). In the December 10, 2008, Candidate Notice of Review (73 FR 75176), we elevated the listing priority of the lesser prairie-chicken from 8 to 2, because the overall magnitude of threats to the lesser prairie-chicken were increasing and occurring throughout almost all of its occupied range. On December 11, 2012, the Service proposed to list the lesser prairie chicken as threatened throughout its range (77 FR 73828). On May 6, 2013, the Service proposed a special rule (78 FR 26302), under section 4(d) of the ESA, that would allow for take of the lesser prairie chicken incidental to activities conducted pursuant to a Service-approved comprehensive conservation program developed by or in coordination with a State agency. The rule also proposed authorizing take incidental to agricultural activities included within a conservation plan developed by the Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) for private agricultural lands in connection with the NRCS’s Lesser Prairie Chicken Initiative. The Service has published the revised proposed 4(d) rule for public comment (78 FR 75306; December 11, 2013), and intends to issue its final determinations on the proposed listing and 4(d) rule no later than March 30, 2014. The Service has issued permits under three other approved CCAAs for the lesser prairie-chicken. A Statewide umbrella CCAA has been in effect in Texas since 2006, to enhance conservation efforts in conjunction with ranching, agricultural land use, and oil and gas activities. In New Mexico, a E:\FR\FM\18DEN1.SGM 18DEN1 ehiers on DSK2VPTVN1PROD with NOTICES Federal Register / Vol. 78, No. 243 / Wednesday, December 18, 2013 / Notices combined umbrella CCAA and Candidate Conservation Agreement with the Bureau of Land Management, approved in 2008, addresses conservation efforts for oil and gas impacts. Most recently, a CCAA was finalized in 2013, for agricultural land use in Oklahoma. An additional CCAA was established with a single landowner in southwestern Kansas; however, this CCAA has since expired. The proposed rule to list the lesser prairie-chicken details several other conservation efforts for the species (77 FR 73828). WAFWA developed the draft rangewide CCAA for oil and gas activities to facilitate implementation of the Rangewide Plan for conserving the lesser prairie-chicken and restoring its habitat on non-Federal lands throughout its range. Implementation of conservation measures in the proposed CCAA are expected to benefit the lesser prairiechicken by establishing, augmenting and maintaining populations. Conservation measures that minimize new surface disturbance would also minimize habitat fragmentation and preserve contiguous expanses of habitat. Conservation measures that limit activities and operations during lekking, nesting, and brooding seasons would minimize impacts to reproduction. Furthermore, the conservation offsets implemented with mitigation fees from Participants are expected to further enhance lesser prairie-chicken habitat through the removal of infrastructure and remediation of impacts to restore habitat. Finally, the CCAA’s regulatory assurances would act as an incentive for participation by oil and gas companies, thereby increasing conservation for the species. The Secretary of the Interior has delegated to the Service the authority to approve or deny a section 10(a)(1)(A) permit in accordance with the ESA. To act on WAFWA’s permit application, we must determine that the CCAA meets the issuance criteria specified in the ESA and at 50 CFR 17.22 and 17.32, as well as 50 CFR part 13. These criteria include a finding that the proposed CCAA complies with the requirements of our CCAA Policy (64 FR 32726, June 17, 1999). The issuance of a section 10(a)(1)(A) permit is a Federal action subject to NEPA compliance, including the Council on Environmental Quality Regulations for Implementing the Procedural Provisions of NEPA (40 CFR 1500–1508). WAFWA’s draft CCAA and application for the enhancement of survival permit are not eligible for categorical exclusion under NEPA. We have prepared a draft EA to further analyze the direct, indirect, and VerDate Mar<15>2010 15:27 Dec 17, 2013 Jkt 232001 cumulative impacts of the CCAA on the quality of the human environment and other natural resources. In compliance with NEPA, we analyzed the impacts of implementing the CCAA, issuance of the permit, and a reasonable range of alternatives in the draft EA. Based on these analyses and any new information resulting from public comment on the proposed action, we will determine if issuance of the permit would cause any significant impacts to the human environment. After reviewing public comments, we will evaluate whether the proposed action and alternatives in the draft EA are adequate to support a Finding of No Significant Impact under NEPA. We now make the draft EA available for public inspection online or in person at the Service offices listed in ADDRESSES. Public Availability of Comments All comments we receive become part of the public record. Requests for copies of comments will be handled in accordance with the Freedom of Information Act, NEPA, and Department of the Interior policies and procedures. 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 ask us to withhold your personal identifying information from public review, we cannot guarantee that we will be able to do so. Authority We provide this notice under section 10(c) of the ESA (16 U.S.C. 1531 et seq.) and its implementing regulations (50 CFR 17.22, 17.32), and NEPA (42 U.S.C. 4321 et seq.) and its implementing regulations (40 CFR 1506.6 and 43 CFR 46.305). Dated: December 11, 2013. Amelia Orton-Palmer, Acting Assistant Regional Director— Ecological Services, Mountain-Prairie Region, Denver, CO. [FR Doc. 2013–30196 Filed 12–17–13; 8:45 am] BILLING CODE 4310–55–P DEPARTMENT OF THE INTERIOR Bureau of Land Management [LLWO300000.L14300000.xx0000] Renewal of Approved Information Collection AGENCY: Bureau of Land Management, Interior. PO 00000 Frm 00049 Fmt 4703 Sfmt 4703 76641 30-Day notice and request for comments. ACTION: The Bureau of Land Management (BLM) has submitted an information collection request to the Office of Management and Budget (OMB) to continue the collection of information from individuals, private entities, and State or local governments seeking leases, permits, and easements for the use, occupancy, or development of public lands administered by the BLM. The Office of Management and Budget (OMB) previously approved this information collection activity, and assigned it control number 1004–0009. DATES: The OMB is required to respond to this information collection request within 60 days but may respond after 30 days. For maximum consideration, written comments should be received on or before January 17, 2014. ADDRESSES: Please submit comments directly to the Desk Officer for the Department of the Interior (OMB #1004– 0009), Office of Management and Budget, Office of Information and Regulatory Affairs, fax 202–395–5806, or by electronic mail at OIRA_ submission@omb.eop.gov. Please provide a copy of your comments to the BLM. You may do so via mail, fax, or electronic mail. Mail: U.S. Department of the Interior, Bureau of Land Management, 1849 C Street NW., Room 2134LM, Attention: Jean Sonneman, Washington, DC 20240. Fax: To Jean Sonneman at 202–245– 0050. Electronic mail: Jean_Sonneman@ blm.gov. Please indicate ‘‘Attn: 1004–0009’’ regardless of the form of your comments. SUMMARY: Jeff Holdren at 202–912–7335. Persons who use a telecommunication device for the deaf may call the Federal Information Relay Service at 1–800–877–8339, to leave a message for Mr. Holdren. You may also review the information collection request online at http:// www.reginfo.gov/public/do/PRAMain. SUPPLEMENTARY INFORMATION: The Paperwork Reduction Act (44 U.S.C. 3501–3521) and OMB regulations at 5 CFR part 1320 provide that an agency may not conduct or sponsor a collection of information unless it displays a currently valid OMB control number. Until OMB approves a collection of information, you are not obligated to respond. In order to obtain and renew an OMB control number, Federal agencies are required to seek public comment on information collection and FOR FURTHER INFORMATION CONTACT: E:\FR\FM\18DEN1.SGM 18DEN1

Agencies

[Federal Register Volume 78, Number 243 (Wednesday, December 18, 2013)]
[Notices]
[Pages 76639-76641]
From the Federal Register Online via the Government Printing Office [www.gpo.gov]
[FR Doc No: 2013-30196]


-----------------------------------------------------------------------

DEPARTMENT OF THE INTERIOR

Fish and Wildlife Service

[FWS-R6-ES-2013-N268; FF06E24000-XXX-FRES48010660150]


Endangered and Threatened Wildlife and Plants; Enhancement of 
Survival Permit Application; Draft Oil and Gas Candidate Conservation 
Agreement With Assurances for the Lesser Prairie-Chicken; Draft 
Environmental Assessment

AGENCY: Fish and Wildlife Service, Interior.

ACTION: Notice of availability; request for comments.

-----------------------------------------------------------------------

SUMMARY: We, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (Service), received an 
application for an enhancement of survival permit (permit) under the 
Endangered Species Act of 1973, as amended (ESA), for take associated 
with implementation of a lesser prairie-chicken Candidate Conservation 
Agreement with Assurances (CCAA) throughout the species' range in 
Kansas, Colorado, Oklahoma, New Mexico, and Texas. The intent of the 
CCAA is to provide the oil and gas industry with the opportunity to 
voluntarily conserve the lesser prairie-chicken and its habitat, in a 
manner that would contribute to precluding the need to list the 
species, while carrying out their oil and gas activities. The Western 
Association of Fish and Wildlife Agencies (WAFWA) is the permit 
applicant and proposes to convey incidental take authorization to oil 
and gas companies that enroll in the CCAA through certificates of 
inclusion. Pursuant to the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA), we 
have prepared a draft environmental assessment (EA) that analyzes the 
potential impacts of issuance of the permit and implementation of the 
proposed CCAA, as well as two alternatives to the proposed action. The 
permit application, draft CCAA, and draft EA

[[Page 76640]]

are available for public review, and we seek public comment on these 
documents and potential issuance of the permit.

DATES: Written comments must be submitted by January 17, 2014.

ADDRESSES: Send written comments to Field Supervisor, Colorado 
Ecological Services Field Office, 134 Union Blvd., Ste. 670, Lakewood, 
CO 80228; or via email to lesserprairiechicken@fws.gov. The draft CCAA 
and EA are available for review on our Mountain-Prairie Region 
Ecological Services Web site at http://www.fws.gov/coloradoes/.
    You also may review copies of these documents by appointment during 
regular business hours at the following offices: (a) Colorado 
Ecological Services Field Office (ESFO) (see address above), (303) 236-
4773; (b) Kansas ESFO, 2609 Anderson Ave., Manhattan, KS 66502, (785) 
539-3474; (c) Oklahoma ESFO, 9014 East 21 St., Tulsa, OK 74129, (918) 
382-4501; (d) Austin, Texas ESFO, 10711 Burnet Rd., Suite 200, Austin, 
TX 78758, (512) 490-0057; (e) Arlington, Texas ESFO, 2005 NE Green Oaks 
Blvd., Suite 140, Arlington, TX 76006, (817) 277-1100; and (f) New 
Mexico ESFO, 2105 Osuna NE., Albuquerque, NM 87113, (505) 346-2525.
    If you do not have access to the Web site or cannot visit our 
office, you may request copies by telephone at (303) 236-4773 or by 
letter to the Colorado ESFO.

FOR FURTHER INFORMATION CONTACT: Leslie Ellwood, Fish and Wildlife 
Biologist, Colorado Ecological Services Field Office, (303) 236-4747; 
leslie_ellwood@fws.gov.

SUPPLEMENTARY INFORMATION: A CCAA is an agreement in which private and 
other non-Federal landowners voluntarily agree to undertake management 
activities and conservation efforts on their properties to enhance, 
restore, or maintain habitat to benefit species that are proposed for 
listing under the ESA, that are candidates for listing, or that may 
become candidates. If we approve the CCAA, we will issue an associated 
enhancement of survival permit, under section 10(a)(1)(A) of the ESA 
(16 U.S.C. 1531 et seq.), that authorizes incidental take resulting 
from covered activities should the species addressed in the CCAA become 
listed. Through the CCAA and permit, we also provide assurances to 
participating landowners that we will not impose additional land, 
water, or financial commitments or restrictions on land, water, or 
resource use, as a result of efforts to attract or increase the numbers 
or distribution of a species on their property if that species becomes 
listed under the ESA in the future. Application requirements and 
issuance criteria for enhancement of survival permits through a CCAA 
are found in 50 CFR 17.22(d) and 17.32(d), as well as 50 CFR part 13.
    Under the proposed range-wide CCAA, participating members of the 
oil and gas industry (Participants) would implement conservation 
measures that avoid, minimize, and mitigate impacts to the lesser 
prairie-chicken and their habitat from oil and gas activities on 
enrolled lands. The Service would issue the permit to WAFWA, who would 
administer the CCAA and enroll the Participants. The CCAA would be in 
effect for 30 years. The CCAA would cover non-Federal lands within the 
current range of the lesser prairie-chicken, plus a 10-mile buffer 
around the current range. Any non-Federal lands within lesser prairie-
chicken habitat in the covered area may be eligible for enrollment 
under the proposed CCAA.
    The CCAA proposes to implement WAFWA's Lesser Prairie-chicken 
Range-wide Plan (Range-wide Plan), which the Service endorsed and WAFWA 
finalized in October 2013. The Range-wide Plan's conservation framework 
provides for financial incentives to landowners who voluntarily manage 
their lands to benefit the species. It also includes conservation 
measures to avoid, minimize, and mitigate impacts specific to current 
and anticipated land-use activities within the species' range, 
including oil and gas development. The Range-wide Plan contains a 
detailed mitigation fee structure that incentivizes locating impact 
activities outside of lesser prairie-chicken habitat or within lower 
quality habitat rather than within medium or high quality habitat. The 
proposed CCAA incorporates the Range-wide Plan's conservation measures 
and mitigation fees pertaining to oil and gas activities. Enrollment of 
lands with habitat impacted by oil and gas activities into the CCAA is 
intended to generate mitigation fees that will significantly help fund 
implementation of conservation actions under the Range-wide Plan for 
the lesser prairie-chicken throughout its range.
    With issuance of the enhancement of survival permit, the Service 
would provide WAFWA and the Participants assurances that, should the 
lesser prairie-chicken be listed, no further commitments or 
restrictions than those they committed to under the CCAA would be 
imposed, as long as the CCAA is properly implemented. Furthermore, if 
the lesser prairie-chicken is listed, the permit would provide WAFWA 
with incidental take authorization. Participants would also receive 
take authorization through their certificates of inclusion under the 
permit. The permit would become effective on the effective date of a 
listing of the lesser prairie-chicken as endangered or threatened and 
would continue through the end of the CCAA term.

Background

    The lesser prairie-chicken currently inhabits rangelands dominated 
primarily by shinnery oak-bluestem and sand sagebrush-bluestem 
vegetation. Major factors affecting the status of the lesser prairie-
chicken are habitat fragmentation, overutilization of habitat by 
domestic livestock, oil and gas development, wind energy development, 
loss of native rangelands to cropland conversion, herbicide use, fire 
suppression, and drought. On June 9, 1998, we determined that listing 
of the lesser prairie-chicken under the ESA was warranted but precluded 
by other higher priority actions (63 FR 31400). In the December 10, 
2008, Candidate Notice of Review (73 FR 75176), we elevated the listing 
priority of the lesser prairie-chicken from 8 to 2, because the overall 
magnitude of threats to the lesser prairie-chicken were increasing and 
occurring throughout almost all of its occupied range.
    On December 11, 2012, the Service proposed to list the lesser 
prairie chicken as threatened throughout its range (77 FR 73828). On 
May 6, 2013, the Service proposed a special rule (78 FR 26302), under 
section 4(d) of the ESA, that would allow for take of the lesser 
prairie chicken incidental to activities conducted pursuant to a 
Service-approved comprehensive conservation program developed by or in 
coordination with a State agency. The rule also proposed authorizing 
take incidental to agricultural activities included within a 
conservation plan developed by the Natural Resources Conservation 
Service (NRCS) for private agricultural lands in connection with the 
NRCS's Lesser Prairie Chicken Initiative. The Service has published the 
revised proposed 4(d) rule for public comment (78 FR 75306; December 
11, 2013), and intends to issue its final determinations on the 
proposed listing and 4(d) rule no later than March 30, 2014.
    The Service has issued permits under three other approved CCAAs for 
the lesser prairie-chicken. A Statewide umbrella CCAA has been in 
effect in Texas since 2006, to enhance conservation efforts in 
conjunction with ranching, agricultural land use, and oil and gas 
activities. In New Mexico, a

[[Page 76641]]

combined umbrella CCAA and Candidate Conservation Agreement with the 
Bureau of Land Management, approved in 2008, addresses conservation 
efforts for oil and gas impacts. Most recently, a CCAA was finalized in 
2013, for agricultural land use in Oklahoma. An additional CCAA was 
established with a single landowner in southwestern Kansas; however, 
this CCAA has since expired. The proposed rule to list the lesser 
prairie-chicken details several other conservation efforts for the 
species (77 FR 73828).
    WAFWA developed the draft range-wide CCAA for oil and gas 
activities to facilitate implementation of the Range-wide Plan for 
conserving the lesser prairie-chicken and restoring its habitat on non-
Federal lands throughout its range. Implementation of conservation 
measures in the proposed CCAA are expected to benefit the lesser 
prairie-chicken by establishing, augmenting and maintaining 
populations. Conservation measures that minimize new surface 
disturbance would also minimize habitat fragmentation and preserve 
contiguous expanses of habitat. Conservation measures that limit 
activities and operations during lekking, nesting, and brooding seasons 
would minimize impacts to reproduction. Furthermore, the conservation 
offsets implemented with mitigation fees from Participants are expected 
to further enhance lesser prairie-chicken habitat through the removal 
of infrastructure and remediation of impacts to restore habitat. 
Finally, the CCAA's regulatory assurances would act as an incentive for 
participation by oil and gas companies, thereby increasing conservation 
for the species.
    The Secretary of the Interior has delegated to the Service the 
authority to approve or deny a section 10(a)(1)(A) permit in accordance 
with the ESA. To act on WAFWA's permit application, we must determine 
that the CCAA meets the issuance criteria specified in the ESA and at 
50 CFR 17.22 and 17.32, as well as 50 CFR part 13. These criteria 
include a finding that the proposed CCAA complies with the requirements 
of our CCAA Policy (64 FR 32726, June 17, 1999).
    The issuance of a section 10(a)(1)(A) permit is a Federal action 
subject to NEPA compliance, including the Council on Environmental 
Quality Regulations for Implementing the Procedural Provisions of NEPA 
(40 CFR 1500-1508). WAFWA's draft CCAA and application for the 
enhancement of survival permit are not eligible for categorical 
exclusion under NEPA. We have prepared a draft EA to further analyze 
the direct, indirect, and cumulative impacts of the CCAA on the quality 
of the human environment and other natural resources. In compliance 
with NEPA, we analyzed the impacts of implementing the CCAA, issuance 
of the permit, and a reasonable range of alternatives in the draft EA. 
Based on these analyses and any new information resulting from public 
comment on the proposed action, we will determine if issuance of the 
permit would cause any significant impacts to the human environment. 
After reviewing public comments, we will evaluate whether the proposed 
action and alternatives in the draft EA are adequate to support a 
Finding of No Significant Impact under NEPA. We now make the draft EA 
available for public inspection online or in person at the Service 
offices listed in ADDRESSES.

Public Availability of Comments

    All comments we receive become part of the public record. Requests 
for copies of comments will be handled in accordance with the Freedom 
of Information Act, NEPA, and Department of the Interior policies and 
procedures. 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 
ask us to withhold your personal identifying information from public 
review, we cannot guarantee that we will be able to do so.

Authority

    We provide this notice under section 10(c) of the ESA (16 U.S.C. 
1531 et seq.) and its implementing regulations (50 CFR 17.22, 17.32), 
and NEPA (42 U.S.C. 4321 et seq.) and its implementing regulations (40 
CFR 1506.6 and 43 CFR 46.305).

    Dated: December 11, 2013.
Amelia Orton-Palmer,
Acting Assistant Regional Director--Ecological Services, Mountain-
Prairie Region, Denver, CO.
[FR Doc. 2013-30196 Filed 12-17-13; 8:45 am]
BILLING CODE 4310-55-P