Proposed Safe Harbor Agreement for the Northern Spotted Owl and Draft Environmental Assessment, Roseburg Resources Company and Oxbow Timber I, LLC, Lane County, OR, 67779-67781 [2015-27947]

Download as PDF Federal Register / Vol. 80, No. 212 / Tuesday, November 3, 2015 / Notices Materials • NFPA 70, National Electrical Code VI. Open Discussion VII. Public Comments VIII. Adjourn 4:00 p.m. Dated: October 28, 2015. Pamela Beck Danner, Administrator, Office of Manufactured Housing Programs. [FR Doc. 2015–28001 Filed 11–2–15; 8:45 am] BILLING CODE 4210–67–P DEPARTMENT OF THE INTERIOR Fish and Wildlife Service [FWS–R1–ES–2015–N198; FXES11120100000–167–FF01E00000] Proposed Safe Harbor Agreement for the Northern Spotted Owl and Draft Environmental Assessment, Roseburg Resources Company and Oxbow Timber I, LLC, Lane County, OR Fish and Wildlife Service, Interior. ACTION: Notice of availability; request for comments. AGENCY: We, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (Service), have received, from Roseburg Resources Company (RRC) and Oxbow Timber I, LLC (Oxbow), an application for an enhancement of survival permit (permit) for the federally threatened northern spotted owl under the Endangered Species Act of 1973, as amended (ESA). The permit application includes a draft safe harbor agreement (SHA) addressing access to RRC and Oxbow lands for the survey and removal of barred owls as part of the Service’s Barred Owl Removal Experiment in Lane County, Oregon. The Service also announces the availability of a draft environmental assessment (EA) that has been prepared in response to the permit application in accordance with requirements of the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA). We are making the permit application, including the draft HCP and the draft EA, available for public review and comment. DATES: To ensure consideration, written comments must be received from interested parties by December 3, 2015. ADDRESSES: To request further information or submit written comments, please use one of the following methods, and note that your information request or comments are in reference to the Roseburg Resources Company and Oxbow Timber I, LLC draft SHA and the draft EA. • Internet: Documents may be viewed and downloaded on the Internet at http://www.fws.gov/ofwo/. mstockstill on DSK4VPTVN1PROD with NOTICES SUMMARY: VerDate Sep<11>2014 18:04 Nov 02, 2015 Jkt 238001 • Email: barredowlsha@fws.gov. Include ‘‘RRC SHA’’ in the subject line of the message. • U.S. Mail: Robin Bown, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, Oregon Fish and Wildlife Office, 2600 SE 98th Ave., Suite 100, Portland, OR 97266. • Fax: 503–231–6195. • In-Person Drop-off, Viewing, or Pickup: Call 503–231–6179 to make an appointment (necessary for viewing or pickup only) during regular business hours at the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, Oregon Fish and Wildlife Office, 2600 SE 98th Ave., Suite 100, Portland, OR 97266. Written comments can be dropped off during regular business hours at the above address on or before the closing date of the public comment period (see DATES). FOR FURTHER INFORMATION CONTACT: Robin Bown, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (see ADDRESSES), telephone 503– 231–6179. If you use a telecommunications device for the deaf (TDD), please call the Federal Information Relay Service (FIRS) at 800–877–8339. SUPPLEMENTARY INFORMATION: RRC and Oxbow have applied to the Service for an enhancement of survival permit under section 10(a)(1)(A) of the ESA (16 U.S.C. 1531 et seq.). The permit application includes a draft SHA. The Service has drafted an EA addressing the effects of the draft SHA and the proposed issuance of a permit. The SHA covers approximately 9,000 acres of forest lands owned by Oxbow and 400 acres of forest lands owned by RRC within the treatment portion of the Oregon Coast Ranges Study Area in Lane County, Oregon. The proposed term of the permit and the SHA is 10 years. In return for permission to access their lands for barred owl surveys and removal in support of the Service’s Barred Owl Removal Experiment, the permit would authorize incidental take of the threatened northern spotted owl (Strix occidentalis caurina) on currently unoccupied, non-baseline spotted owl sites if they become occupied during the term of the permit. The permit would also authorize incidental take of the spotted owl as a result of management activities during the term of the permit. Background Under a SHA, participating landowners voluntarily undertake activities on their property to benefit species listed under the ESA (16 U.S.C. 1531 et seq.). SHAs, and the subsequent enhancement of survival permits that are issued to participating landowners pursuant to section 10(a)(1)(A) of the ESA, encourage private and other non- PO 00000 Frm 00082 Fmt 4703 Sfmt 4703 67779 Federal property owners to implement conservation actions for federally listed species by assuring the landowners that they will not be subjected to increased property use restrictions as a result of their conservation efforts. These assurances allow the property owner to alter or modify the enrolled property to agreed-upon baseline conditions, even if such alteration or modification results in the incidental take of a listed species. The baseline conditions represent the existing levels of use of the property by species covered in the SHA. SHA assurances depend on the property owner complying with obligations in the SHA and the terms and conditions of the permit. The SHA’s net conservation benefits must be sufficient to contribute, either directly or indirectly, to the recovery of the covered listed species. Enrolled landowners may make lawful use of the enrolled property during the permit term and may incidentally take the listed species named on the permit as long as that take does not modify the agreed-upon net conservation benefit to the species. Application requirements and issuance criteria for enhancement of survival permits for SHAs are found in the Code of Federal Regulations (CFR) at 50 CFR 17.22(c). The Service’s Safe Harbor Policy (64 FR 32717, June 17, 1999) and the Safe Harbor Regulations (68 FR 53320, September 10, 2003; and 69 FR 24084, May 3, 2004) are available at http://www.fws.gov/endangered/lawspolicies/regulations-and-policies.html. Safe Harbor Agreement RRC and Oxbow submitted an application for an enhancement of survival permit under the ESA to authorize incidental take of the federalthreatened northern spotted owl. The permit application includes a draft SHA between RRC and Oxbow, and the Service. The SHA addresses access to support the Service’s Barred Owl Removal Experiment (USFWS 2013a) in the Oregon Coast Ranges Study Area (Study Area), Lane County, Oregon. The SHA covers RRC and Oxbow lands within the treatment area of the Study Area. The treatment area is composed lands owned by many different landowners, including 58 percent Federal lands, 13 percent State lands, and 29 percent private lands. This is the focus of the SHA because this is the area where the removal of barred owls under the experiment may lead to reoccupancy of sites that are not currently occupied by spotted owls. If barred owl removal leads to the reoccupancy of sites by spotted owls, in the absence of this permit some E:\FR\FM\03NON1.SGM 03NON1 67780 Federal Register / Vol. 80, No. 212 / Tuesday, November 3, 2015 / Notices mstockstill on DSK4VPTVN1PROD with NOTICES restrictions or limitations on forest management activities could occur. Take would be allowed for forest operation and management activities, including but not limited to road use, road construction, road maintenance, and the normal management activities associated with managing private forestland for timber production, such as timber harvest, planting, spraying, fertilizing, monitoring, measuring, patrolling, and fighting wildfire. The goal of both RRC and Oxbow is to manage their timberlands for timber production, providing economic, community and stewardship values on a long-term sustained-yield basis while meeting State and Federal regulatory requirements. The RRC and Oxbow lands within the Study Area are an important part of each company’s overall operating plans from both a short-term and long-term perspective. RRC and Oxbow are anticipating significant changes and fluctuations regarding spotted owl occupancy status of well surveyed sites and areas on or near RRC and Oxbow lands in the treatment area after barred owl removal occurs and potential short term regulatory impacts to operation plans after barred owl removal in the treatment area occurs. The purpose of RRC and Oxbow participation is to demonstrate goodfaith cooperation with the Service regarding this recovery action while maintaining a reasonable level of certainty regarding the anticipated biological response and subsequent regulatory requirements impacting both forest operations and management during and after the experiment period for themselves, and to the maximum extent allowable under the ESA, adjacent landowners. To support the Barred Owl Removal Experiment, RRC and Oxbow will provide the researchers access to RRC and Oxbow lands to survey barred owls throughout the Study Area and to remove barred owls located on RRC and Oxbow lands within the treatment portion of the Study Area. In addition, RRC and Oxbow will maintain habitat to support actively nesting spotted owls on any reoccupied non-baseline sites during the nesting season. Proposed Action The Service proposes to enter into the SHA and to issue an enhancement of survival permit to RRC and Oxbow for incidental take of the northern spotted owl caused by covered activities, if permit issuance criteria are met. The permit would have a term of 10 years. As a result of the continued monitoring of spotted owls on RRC and VerDate Sep<11>2014 18:04 Nov 02, 2015 Jkt 238001 Oxbow lands as part of the ongoing spotted owl surveys conducted under the Northwest Forest Plan Monitoring program, we have strong annual survey data for the area that may be included in the SHA and can establish a baseline based on the estimated current occupancy status of each spotted owl site. Any spotted owl sites with a response from at least one resident spotted owl between 2013 and present are considered in the baseline and would not be authorized to be taken. Based on this approach, there are nine baseline spotted owl sites in the treatment portion of the Oregon Coast Ranges Study Area where RRC or Oxbow own land or have operations easements or agreements. The conservation benefits for the northern spotted owl under the SHA arise from RRC and Oxbow allowing access to their roads and lands for barred owl surveys and, within the treatment area, barred owl removal. In this landscape of multiple landowners, access to interspersed non-Federal lands is important to the efficient and effective completion of the Barred Owl Removal Experiment within a reasonable timeframe. The impact of the increase in nonnative barred owl populations as they expand in the range of the spotted owls has been identified as one of the primary threats to the continued existence of the spotted owl. The Recovery Plan for the Northern Spotted Owl includes Recovery Action 29— ‘‘Design and implement large-scale control experiments to assess the effects of barred owl removal on spotted owl site occupancy, reproduction, and survival’’ (USFWS 2011, p. III–65). The Service developed the Barred Owl Removal Experiment to implement this Recovery Action, completing the Environmental Impact Statement and Record of Decision in 2013 (USFWS 2013a and b). The Service selected a study conducted on four study areas, including the Oregon Coast Ranges Study Area. Timely results from this experiment are crucial for informing development of a long-term barred owl management strategy, itself essential to the conservation of the northern spotted owl. While the Study Area is focused on Federal lands, it still contains significant interspersed non-Federal lands. To complete the experiment in the most efficient and complete manner, the Service requires access on nonpublic roads and the ability to remove barred owls on the non-Federal lands within the treatment area. While the experiment is possible without access to non-Federal lands, failure to remove PO 00000 Frm 00083 Fmt 4703 Sfmt 4703 barred owls from portions of the treatment area could reduce the power of the experiment to detect any changes in spotted owl population dynamics resulting from the removal of barred owls and potentially extend the duration of the experiment. The Service has repeatedly indicated the need to gather this information in a timely manner. Failure to access non-Federal lands could delay the results. Incidental take of spotted owls under this SHA would likely be in the form of harm from forest operation activities that result in habitat degradation, or harassment from forest management activities that cause disturbance to spotted owls. Incidental take in the form of harassment by disturbance is most likely to occur near former spotted owl nest sites if they become reoccupied. Harm and harassment could occur during timber operations and management that will continue during the permit term. RRC and Oxbow will perform routine harvest, road maintenance and construction activities, including rock pit development, herbicide spraying and soil fertilization that may disturb spotted owls. Net Conservation Benefits RRC and Oxbow own lands in the treatment portion of the Oregon Coast Ranges Study Area. Access to the RRC and Oxbow lands is important to the efficient and effective completion of the Barred Owl Removal Experiment within a reasonable timeframe. All of the currently occupied spotted owl sites are within the baseline and no take of these sites is authorized under this SHA. If barred owl removal does allow spotted owls to reoccupy sites that are not currently occupied (non-baseline), RRC and Oxbow will be allowed to take these spotted owls. It is highly unlikely that these sites would ever be reoccupied by spotted owls without the removal of barred owls. The removal of barred owls on the Study Area will end within 10 years. The Service anticipates that, once released from the removal pressure, barred owl populations will rebound to pre-treatment levels within 3 to 5 years. This is likely to result in the loss of the newly reoccupied sites. Therefore, any occupancy of these sites is likely to be temporary and short term. The SHA allows for the take of spotted owls on 19 non-baseline sites in the treatment area of the Study Area if these sites become reoccupied during the barred owl removal study. Take of non-baseline owl sites that may be reoccupied can result from disturbance from forest management activities or habitat loss. For 6 of the 19 sites, take E:\FR\FM\03NON1.SGM 03NON1 mstockstill on DSK4VPTVN1PROD with NOTICES Federal Register / Vol. 80, No. 212 / Tuesday, November 3, 2015 / Notices is anticipated primarily from disturbance. Take resulting from disturbance is temporary, short term, and only likely to occur if activities occur very close to nesting spotted owls. None of the 48 historic spotted owl site centers in the treatment area occur on RRC or Oxbow lands, and only three are close enough that forest management activities on RRC or Oxbow lands could result in some disturbance of the sites if these site centers were reoccupied. For the remaining 13 sites, take may occur as a result of disturbance or habitat removal if they become reoccupied during the experiment. Loss of habitat has longer term effects, and the degree to which it may affect the study depends on the amount of potential habitat loss compared to the condition of the spotted owl site. RRC and Oxbow are minor owners on seven of these sites with less than 10 percent of the land ownership and less than five percent of the remaining suitable habitat on these seven sites. Federal lands contain the majority of the remaining suitable spotted owl habitat on six of these seven sites. Thus, even if all nonbaseline spotted owl sites are reoccupied by spotted owls, and RRC and Oxbow remove all habitat remaining on their lands within these sites under their permit, many of these sites are likely to remain viable at some level as a result of habitat remaining on other landowners, including the Federal agencies. The primary conservation value of the Barred Owl Removal Experiment is the information it provides on the efficacy of removal as a tool to manage barred owl populations for the conservation of the spotted owl. This information is crucial to the development of a longterm barred owl management strategy, itself essential to the conservation of the northern spotted owl. In this landscape of multiple landowners, access to interspersed non-Federal lands is important to the efficient and effective completion of the Barred Owl Removal Experiment within a reasonable timeframe. The SHA under which RRC and Oxbow allow access to their roads and lands for barred owl surveys and, within the treatment area, barred owl removal contributes significantly to the conservation value of this experiment. Thus, the take of spotted owls on the temporarily reoccupied sites is more than offset by the value of the information gained from the experiment and its potential contribution to a longterm barred owl management strategy. This SHA advances the recovery of the spotted owl. VerDate Sep<11>2014 18:04 Nov 02, 2015 Jkt 238001 National Environmental Policy Act Compliance 67781 The development of the draft SHA and the proposed issuance of an enhancement of survival permit is a Federal action that triggers the need for compliance with the National Environmental Policy Act of 1969, as amended (42 U.S.C. 4321 et seq.) (NEPA). We have prepared a draft EA to analyze the impacts of permit issuance and implementation of the SHA on the human environment in comparison to the no-action alternative. will be able to do so. All submissions from organizations or businesses, and from individuals identifying themselves as representatives or officials of organizations or businesses, will be made available for public disclosure in their entirety. Comments and materials we receive, as well as supporting documentation we used in preparing the draft EA, will be available for public inspection by appointment, during normal business hours, at our Oregon Fish and Wildlife Office (see ADDRESSES). Public Comments Next Steps You may submit your comments and materials by one of the methods listed in the ADDRESSES section. We request data, new information, or suggestions from the public, other concerned governmental agencies, Tribes, the scientific community, industry, or any other interested party on our proposed Federal action. In particular, we request information and comments regarding the following issues: 1. The direct, indirect, and cumulative effects that implementation of the SHA could have on endangered and threatened species; 2. Other reasonable alternatives consistent with the purpose of the proposed SHA as described above, and their associated effects; 3. Measures that would minimize and mitigate potentially adverse effects of the proposed action; 4. Identification of any impacts on the human environment that should have been analyzed in the draft EA pursuant to NEPA; 5. Other plans or projects that might be relevant to this action; 6. The proposed term of the enhancement of survival permit and whether the proposed SHA would provide a net conservation benefit to the covered species; and 7. Any other information pertinent to evaluating the effects of the proposed action on the human environment. Public Availability of Comments All comments and materials we receive become part of the public record associated with this action. Before including your address, phone number, email address, or other personally identifiable information in your comments, you should be aware that your entire comment—including your personally identifiable information— may be made publicly available at any time. While you can ask us in your comment to withhold your personally identifiable information from public review, we cannot guarantee that we PO 00000 Frm 00084 Fmt 4703 Sfmt 9990 We will evaluate the draft SHA, associated documents, and any public comments we receive to determine whether the permit application and the EA meet the requirements of section 10(a) of the ESA and NEPA, respectively, and their respective implementing regulations. We will also evaluate whether issuance of an enhancement of survival permit would comply with section 7 of the ESA by conducting an intra-Service section 7 consultation on the proposed permit action. If we determine that all requirements are met, we will sign the proposed SHA and issue an enhancement of survival permit under section 10(a)(1)(A) of the ESA to the applicant, RRC and Oxbow, for incidental take of the northern spotted owl caused by covered activities in accordance with the terms of the permit and the SHA. We will not make our final decision until after the end of the 30-day public comment period, and we will fully consider all comments and information we receive during the public comment period. Authority We provide this notice pursuant to section 10(c) of the Endangered Species Act of 1973, as amended (16 U.S.C. 1531 et seq.), its implementing regulations (50 CFR 17.22), and the National Environmental Policy Act of 1969, as amended (42 U.S.C. 4321 et seq.) and its implementing regulations (40 CFR 1506.6). Dated: October 21, 2015. Richard Hannan, Deputy Regional Director, Pacific Region, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, Portland, Oregon. [FR Doc. 2015–27947 Filed 11–2–15; 8:45 am] BILLING CODE 4333–15–P E:\FR\FM\03NON1.SGM 03NON1

Agencies

[Federal Register Volume 80, Number 212 (Tuesday, November 3, 2015)]
[Notices]
[Pages 67779-67781]
From the Federal Register Online via the Government Publishing Office [www.gpo.gov]
[FR Doc No: 2015-27947]


=======================================================================
-----------------------------------------------------------------------

DEPARTMENT OF THE INTERIOR

Fish and Wildlife Service

[FWS-R1-ES-2015-N198; FXES11120100000-167-FF01E00000]


Proposed Safe Harbor Agreement for the Northern Spotted Owl and 
Draft Environmental Assessment, Roseburg Resources Company and Oxbow 
Timber I, LLC, Lane County, OR

AGENCY: Fish and Wildlife Service, Interior.

ACTION: Notice of availability; request for comments.

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

SUMMARY: We, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (Service), have 
received, from Roseburg Resources Company (RRC) and Oxbow Timber I, LLC 
(Oxbow), an application for an enhancement of survival permit (permit) 
for the federally threatened northern spotted owl under the Endangered 
Species Act of 1973, as amended (ESA). The permit application includes 
a draft safe harbor agreement (SHA) addressing access to RRC and Oxbow 
lands for the survey and removal of barred owls as part of the 
Service's Barred Owl Removal Experiment in Lane County, Oregon. The 
Service also announces the availability of a draft environmental 
assessment (EA) that has been prepared in response to the permit 
application in accordance with requirements of the National 
Environmental Policy Act (NEPA). We are making the permit application, 
including the draft HCP and the draft EA, available for public review 
and comment.

DATES: To ensure consideration, written comments must be received from 
interested parties by December 3, 2015.

ADDRESSES: To request further information or submit written comments, 
please use one of the following methods, and note that your information 
request or comments are in reference to the Roseburg Resources Company 
and Oxbow Timber I, LLC draft SHA and the draft EA.
     Internet: Documents may be viewed and downloaded on the 
Internet at http://www.fws.gov/ofwo/.
     Email: barredowlsha@fws.gov. Include ``RRC SHA'' in the 
subject line of the message.
     U.S. Mail: Robin Bown, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, 
Oregon Fish and Wildlife Office, 2600 SE 98th Ave., Suite 100, 
Portland, OR 97266.
     Fax: 503-231-6195.
     In-Person Drop-off, Viewing, or Pickup: Call 503-231-6179 
to make an appointment (necessary for viewing or pickup only) during 
regular business hours at the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, Oregon 
Fish and Wildlife Office, 2600 SE 98th Ave., Suite 100, Portland, OR 
97266. Written comments can be dropped off during regular business 
hours at the above address on or before the closing date of the public 
comment period (see DATES).

FOR FURTHER INFORMATION CONTACT: Robin Bown, U.S. Fish and Wildlife 
Service (see ADDRESSES), telephone 503-231-6179. If you use a 
telecommunications device for the deaf (TDD), please call the Federal 
Information Relay Service (FIRS) at 800-877-8339.

SUPPLEMENTARY INFORMATION: RRC and Oxbow have applied to the Service 
for an enhancement of survival permit under section 10(a)(1)(A) of the 
ESA (16 U.S.C. 1531 et seq.). The permit application includes a draft 
SHA. The Service has drafted an EA addressing the effects of the draft 
SHA and the proposed issuance of a permit.
    The SHA covers approximately 9,000 acres of forest lands owned by 
Oxbow and 400 acres of forest lands owned by RRC within the treatment 
portion of the Oregon Coast Ranges Study Area in Lane County, Oregon. 
The proposed term of the permit and the SHA is 10 years. In return for 
permission to access their lands for barred owl surveys and removal in 
support of the Service's Barred Owl Removal Experiment, the permit 
would authorize incidental take of the threatened northern spotted owl 
(Strix occidentalis caurina) on currently unoccupied, non-baseline 
spotted owl sites if they become occupied during the term of the 
permit. The permit would also authorize incidental take of the spotted 
owl as a result of management activities during the term of the permit.

Background

    Under a SHA, participating landowners voluntarily undertake 
activities on their property to benefit species listed under the ESA 
(16 U.S.C. 1531 et seq.). SHAs, and the subsequent enhancement of 
survival permits that are issued to participating landowners pursuant 
to section 10(a)(1)(A) of the ESA, encourage private and other non-
Federal property owners to implement conservation actions for federally 
listed species by assuring the landowners that they will not be 
subjected to increased property use restrictions as a result of their 
conservation efforts.
    These assurances allow the property owner to alter or modify the 
enrolled property to agreed-upon baseline conditions, even if such 
alteration or modification results in the incidental take of a listed 
species. The baseline conditions represent the existing levels of use 
of the property by species covered in the SHA. SHA assurances depend on 
the property owner complying with obligations in the SHA and the terms 
and conditions of the permit. The SHA's net conservation benefits must 
be sufficient to contribute, either directly or indirectly, to the 
recovery of the covered listed species. Enrolled landowners may make 
lawful use of the enrolled property during the permit term and may 
incidentally take the listed species named on the permit as long as 
that take does not modify the agreed-upon net conservation benefit to 
the species.
    Application requirements and issuance criteria for enhancement of 
survival permits for SHAs are found in the Code of Federal Regulations 
(CFR) at 50 CFR 17.22(c). The Service's Safe Harbor Policy (64 FR 
32717, June 17, 1999) and the Safe Harbor Regulations (68 FR 53320, 
September 10, 2003; and 69 FR 24084, May 3, 2004) are available at 
http://www.fws.gov/endangered/laws-policies/regulations-and-policies.html.

Safe Harbor Agreement

    RRC and Oxbow submitted an application for an enhancement of 
survival permit under the ESA to authorize incidental take of the 
federal-threatened northern spotted owl. The permit application 
includes a draft SHA between RRC and Oxbow, and the Service. The SHA 
addresses access to support the Service's Barred Owl Removal Experiment 
(USFWS 2013a) in the Oregon Coast Ranges Study Area (Study Area), Lane 
County, Oregon.
    The SHA covers RRC and Oxbow lands within the treatment area of the 
Study Area. The treatment area is composed lands owned by many 
different landowners, including 58 percent Federal lands, 13 percent 
State lands, and 29 percent private lands. This is the focus of the SHA 
because this is the area where the removal of barred owls under the 
experiment may lead to reoccupancy of sites that are not currently 
occupied by spotted owls. If barred owl removal leads to the 
reoccupancy of sites by spotted owls, in the absence of this permit 
some

[[Page 67780]]

restrictions or limitations on forest management activities could 
occur.
    Take would be allowed for forest operation and management 
activities, including but not limited to road use, road construction, 
road maintenance, and the normal management activities associated with 
managing private forestland for timber production, such as timber 
harvest, planting, spraying, fertilizing, monitoring, measuring, 
patrolling, and fighting wildfire.
    The goal of both RRC and Oxbow is to manage their timberlands for 
timber production, providing economic, community and stewardship values 
on a long-term sustained-yield basis while meeting State and Federal 
regulatory requirements. The RRC and Oxbow lands within the Study Area 
are an important part of each company's overall operating plans from 
both a short-term and long-term perspective. RRC and Oxbow are 
anticipating significant changes and fluctuations regarding spotted owl 
occupancy status of well surveyed sites and areas on or near RRC and 
Oxbow lands in the treatment area after barred owl removal occurs and 
potential short term regulatory impacts to operation plans after barred 
owl removal in the treatment area occurs.
    The purpose of RRC and Oxbow participation is to demonstrate good-
faith cooperation with the Service regarding this recovery action while 
maintaining a reasonable level of certainty regarding the anticipated 
biological response and subsequent regulatory requirements impacting 
both forest operations and management during and after the experiment 
period for themselves, and to the maximum extent allowable under the 
ESA, adjacent landowners.
    To support the Barred Owl Removal Experiment, RRC and Oxbow will 
provide the researchers access to RRC and Oxbow lands to survey barred 
owls throughout the Study Area and to remove barred owls located on RRC 
and Oxbow lands within the treatment portion of the Study Area. In 
addition, RRC and Oxbow will maintain habitat to support actively 
nesting spotted owls on any reoccupied non-baseline sites during the 
nesting season.

Proposed Action

    The Service proposes to enter into the SHA and to issue an 
enhancement of survival permit to RRC and Oxbow for incidental take of 
the northern spotted owl caused by covered activities, if permit 
issuance criteria are met. The permit would have a term of 10 years.
    As a result of the continued monitoring of spotted owls on RRC and 
Oxbow lands as part of the ongoing spotted owl surveys conducted under 
the Northwest Forest Plan Monitoring program, we have strong annual 
survey data for the area that may be included in the SHA and can 
establish a baseline based on the estimated current occupancy status of 
each spotted owl site. Any spotted owl sites with a response from at 
least one resident spotted owl between 2013 and present are considered 
in the baseline and would not be authorized to be taken. Based on this 
approach, there are nine baseline spotted owl sites in the treatment 
portion of the Oregon Coast Ranges Study Area where RRC or Oxbow own 
land or have operations easements or agreements.
    The conservation benefits for the northern spotted owl under the 
SHA arise from RRC and Oxbow allowing access to their roads and lands 
for barred owl surveys and, within the treatment area, barred owl 
removal. In this landscape of multiple landowners, access to 
interspersed non-Federal lands is important to the efficient and 
effective completion of the Barred Owl Removal Experiment within a 
reasonable timeframe.
    The impact of the increase in non-native barred owl populations as 
they expand in the range of the spotted owls has been identified as one 
of the primary threats to the continued existence of the spotted owl. 
The Recovery Plan for the Northern Spotted Owl includes Recovery Action 
29--``Design and implement large-scale control experiments to assess 
the effects of barred owl removal on spotted owl site occupancy, 
reproduction, and survival'' (USFWS 2011, p. III-65). The Service 
developed the Barred Owl Removal Experiment to implement this Recovery 
Action, completing the Environmental Impact Statement and Record of 
Decision in 2013 (USFWS 2013a and b). The Service selected a study 
conducted on four study areas, including the Oregon Coast Ranges Study 
Area. Timely results from this experiment are crucial for informing 
development of a long-term barred owl management strategy, itself 
essential to the conservation of the northern spotted owl.
    While the Study Area is focused on Federal lands, it still contains 
significant interspersed non-Federal lands. To complete the experiment 
in the most efficient and complete manner, the Service requires access 
on non-public roads and the ability to remove barred owls on the non-
Federal lands within the treatment area. While the experiment is 
possible without access to non-Federal lands, failure to remove barred 
owls from portions of the treatment area could reduce the power of the 
experiment to detect any changes in spotted owl population dynamics 
resulting from the removal of barred owls and potentially extend the 
duration of the experiment. The Service has repeatedly indicated the 
need to gather this information in a timely manner. Failure to access 
non-Federal lands could delay the results.
    Incidental take of spotted owls under this SHA would likely be in 
the form of harm from forest operation activities that result in 
habitat degradation, or harassment from forest management activities 
that cause disturbance to spotted owls. Incidental take in the form of 
harassment by disturbance is most likely to occur near former spotted 
owl nest sites if they become reoccupied. Harm and harassment could 
occur during timber operations and management that will continue during 
the permit term. RRC and Oxbow will perform routine harvest, road 
maintenance and construction activities, including rock pit 
development, herbicide spraying and soil fertilization that may disturb 
spotted owls.

Net Conservation Benefits

    RRC and Oxbow own lands in the treatment portion of the Oregon 
Coast Ranges Study Area. Access to the RRC and Oxbow lands is important 
to the efficient and effective completion of the Barred Owl Removal 
Experiment within a reasonable timeframe. All of the currently occupied 
spotted owl sites are within the baseline and no take of these sites is 
authorized under this SHA. If barred owl removal does allow spotted 
owls to reoccupy sites that are not currently occupied (non-baseline), 
RRC and Oxbow will be allowed to take these spotted owls. It is highly 
unlikely that these sites would ever be reoccupied by spotted owls 
without the removal of barred owls.
    The removal of barred owls on the Study Area will end within 10 
years. The Service anticipates that, once released from the removal 
pressure, barred owl populations will rebound to pre-treatment levels 
within 3 to 5 years. This is likely to result in the loss of the newly 
reoccupied sites. Therefore, any occupancy of these sites is likely to 
be temporary and short term.
    The SHA allows for the take of spotted owls on 19 non-baseline 
sites in the treatment area of the Study Area if these sites become 
reoccupied during the barred owl removal study. Take of non-baseline 
owl sites that may be reoccupied can result from disturbance from 
forest management activities or habitat loss. For 6 of the 19 sites, 
take

[[Page 67781]]

is anticipated primarily from disturbance. Take resulting from 
disturbance is temporary, short term, and only likely to occur if 
activities occur very close to nesting spotted owls. None of the 48 
historic spotted owl site centers in the treatment area occur on RRC or 
Oxbow lands, and only three are close enough that forest management 
activities on RRC or Oxbow lands could result in some disturbance of 
the sites if these site centers were reoccupied.
    For the remaining 13 sites, take may occur as a result of 
disturbance or habitat removal if they become reoccupied during the 
experiment. Loss of habitat has longer term effects, and the degree to 
which it may affect the study depends on the amount of potential 
habitat loss compared to the condition of the spotted owl site. RRC and 
Oxbow are minor owners on seven of these sites with less than 10 
percent of the land ownership and less than five percent of the 
remaining suitable habitat on these seven sites. Federal lands contain 
the majority of the remaining suitable spotted owl habitat on six of 
these seven sites. Thus, even if all non-baseline spotted owl sites are 
reoccupied by spotted owls, and RRC and Oxbow remove all habitat 
remaining on their lands within these sites under their permit, many of 
these sites are likely to remain viable at some level as a result of 
habitat remaining on other landowners, including the Federal agencies.
    The primary conservation value of the Barred Owl Removal Experiment 
is the information it provides on the efficacy of removal as a tool to 
manage barred owl populations for the conservation of the spotted owl. 
This information is crucial to the development of a long-term barred 
owl management strategy, itself essential to the conservation of the 
northern spotted owl. In this landscape of multiple landowners, access 
to interspersed non-Federal lands is important to the efficient and 
effective completion of the Barred Owl Removal Experiment within a 
reasonable timeframe. The SHA under which RRC and Oxbow allow access to 
their roads and lands for barred owl surveys and, within the treatment 
area, barred owl removal contributes significantly to the conservation 
value of this experiment. Thus, the take of spotted owls on the 
temporarily reoccupied sites is more than offset by the value of the 
information gained from the experiment and its potential contribution 
to a long-term barred owl management strategy. This SHA advances the 
recovery of the spotted owl.

National Environmental Policy Act Compliance

    The development of the draft SHA and the proposed issuance of an 
enhancement of survival permit is a Federal action that triggers the 
need for compliance with the National Environmental Policy Act of 1969, 
as amended (42 U.S.C. 4321 et seq.) (NEPA). We have prepared a draft EA 
to analyze the impacts of permit issuance and implementation of the SHA 
on the human environment in comparison to the no-action alternative.

Public Comments

    You may submit your comments and materials by one of the methods 
listed in the ADDRESSES section. We request data, new information, or 
suggestions from the public, other concerned governmental agencies, 
Tribes, the scientific community, industry, or any other interested 
party on our proposed Federal action. In particular, we request 
information and comments regarding the following issues:
    1. The direct, indirect, and cumulative effects that implementation 
of the SHA could have on endangered and threatened species;
    2. Other reasonable alternatives consistent with the purpose of the 
proposed SHA as described above, and their associated effects;
    3. Measures that would minimize and mitigate potentially adverse 
effects of the proposed action;
    4. Identification of any impacts on the human environment that 
should have been analyzed in the draft EA pursuant to NEPA;
    5. Other plans or projects that might be relevant to this action;
    6. The proposed term of the enhancement of survival permit and 
whether the proposed SHA would provide a net conservation benefit to 
the covered species; and
    7. Any other information pertinent to evaluating the effects of the 
proposed action on the human environment.

Public Availability of Comments

    All comments and materials we receive become part of the public 
record associated with this action. Before including your address, 
phone number, email address, or other personally identifiable 
information in your comments, you should be aware that your entire 
comment--including your personally identifiable information--may be 
made publicly available at any time. While you can ask us in your 
comment to withhold your personally identifiable information from 
public review, we cannot guarantee that we will be able to do so. All 
submissions from organizations or businesses, and from individuals 
identifying themselves as representatives or officials of organizations 
or businesses, will be made available for public disclosure in their 
entirety. Comments and materials we receive, as well as supporting 
documentation we used in preparing the draft EA, will be available for 
public inspection by appointment, during normal business hours, at our 
Oregon Fish and Wildlife Office (see ADDRESSES).

Next Steps

    We will evaluate the draft SHA, associated documents, and any 
public comments we receive to determine whether the permit application 
and the EA meet the requirements of section 10(a) of the ESA and NEPA, 
respectively, and their respective implementing regulations. We will 
also evaluate whether issuance of an enhancement of survival permit 
would comply with section 7 of the ESA by conducting an intra-Service 
section 7 consultation on the proposed permit action. If we determine 
that all requirements are met, we will sign the proposed SHA and issue 
an enhancement of survival permit under section 10(a)(1)(A) of the ESA 
to the applicant, RRC and Oxbow, for incidental take of the northern 
spotted owl caused by covered activities in accordance with the terms 
of the permit and the SHA. We will not make our final decision until 
after the end of the 30-day public comment period, and we will fully 
consider all comments and information we receive during the public 
comment period.

Authority

    We provide this notice pursuant to section 10(c) of the Endangered 
Species Act of 1973, as amended (16 U.S.C. 1531 et seq.), its 
implementing regulations (50 CFR 17.22), and the National Environmental 
Policy Act of 1969, as amended (42 U.S.C. 4321 et seq.) and its 
implementing regulations (40 CFR 1506.6).

    Dated: October 21, 2015.
Richard Hannan,
Deputy Regional Director, Pacific Region, U.S. Fish and Wildlife 
Service, Portland, Oregon.
[FR Doc. 2015-27947 Filed 11-2-15; 8:45 am]
BILLING CODE 4333-15-P