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Notice

Safe Harbor Agreement and Receipt of Application for an Enhancement of Survival Permit Associated With the Restoration of Habitat for Utah Prairie Dogs on Private Land in Piute County, UT

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AGENCY:

Fish and Wildlife Service, Interior.

ACTION:

Notice of availability.

SUMMARY:

Mr. Val Norman (Applicant/Cooperator) has applied to the Fish and Wildlife Service (Service) for an Enhancement of Survival Permit (ESP) for the Utah prairie dog (UPD) pursuant to section 10(a)(1)(A) of the Endangered Species Act of 1973, as amended (Act). This permit application includes a Safe Harbor Agreement (SHA) between the Applicant and the Service. The Service requests information, views, and opinions from the public via this notice. Further, the Service is soliciting information regarding the adequacy of the SHA as measured against the Service's Safe Harbor Policy and the regulations that implement it.

DATES:

Written comments on the permit application must be received on or before March 29, 2007.

ADDRESSES:

Persons wishing to review the SHA and the ESP application may obtain a copy by writing the Service's Mountain-Prairie Regional Office, Denver, Colorado. Documents also will be available for public inspection during normal business hours at the Regional Office, 134 Union Boulevard, Denver, Colorado 80228-1807, or the Utah Field Office, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, 2369 West Orton Circle, Suite 50, West Valley City, Utah 84119. Written data or comments concerning the SHA or ESP application should be submitted to the Regional office and must be in writing to be processed. Comments must be submitted in writing to be adequately considered in the Service's decision-making process. Please reference permit number TE131545-0 in your comments, or in the request for the documents discussed herein.

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FOR FURTHER INFORMATION CONTACT:

Pat Mehlhop, Regional Safe Harbor Coordinator (see Denver address above), telephone 303-236-4215, or Larry Crist, Utah Field Office Supervisor (see West Valley City address above), telephone 801-975-3330.

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SUPPLEMENTARY INFORMATION:

The UPD is the westernmost member of the genus Cynomys. The species' range, which is limited to the southwestern quarter of Utah, is the most restricted of all prairie dog species in the United States. Distribution of the UPD has been greatly reduced due to disease (plague), poisoning, drought, and human-related habitat alteration. Protection of this species and enhancement of its habitat on private land will benefit recovery efforts.

The primary objective of a SHA is to encourage voluntary conservation measures to benefit the species and the landowner. Through this agreement, the landowner will receive relief from any additional section 9 liability under the Act beyond that which exists at the time the agreement is signed (“regulatory baseline”). There are no buildings or residences on the property; however it is currently used to house hunting dogs in an enclosed area less than 0.4 hectare (1 acre) in size. The rest of the property is unused and is not currently suitable for livestock grazing due to the high density of invasive weeds. The property is bordered on four sides by private lands. At the present time, the property supports an active prairie dog colony with many unoccupied burrows. In addition, active UPD colonies are known to exist on private property east and south of the Norman property. Foraging habitat and habitat that offers visual surveillance for the prairie dogs will be further enhanced by implementing a prescribed grazing plan, seeding to improve the forage quality for UPD, and installing irrigation improvements.

Habitat improvements will occur throughout the term of the agreement through managed grazing. The Cooperator will receive an ESP that authorizes implementation of the conservation actions and other provisions of this Agreement and authorizes incidental take of the covered species above the Cooperator's baseline responsibilities, as defined in the SHA. The proposed SHA would become effective upon signature of the SHA and issuance of the permit, and would remain in effect for 15 years. The requested permit would remain in effect for 35 years. We have made the determination that the proposed activities described in the application Start Printed Page 8767and SHA will increase available prairie dog habitat and will potentially expand an existing active colony of UPDs on the Norman property. The action is categorically excluded under the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA). This notice is provided pursuant to section 10 of the Act, and the Service's Safe Harbor Policy (64 FR 32717).

The Service has evaluated the impacts of this action under the NEPA and determined that it warrants categorical exclusion as described in 516 DM 8, 8.5 C. (1). The Service will evaluate whether the issuance of the ESP complies with section 7 of the Act by conducting an intra-Service section 7 consultation on the issuance of the permit. The result of the biological opinion, in combination with the above finding and any public comments, will be used in the final analysis to determine whether or not to issue the requested ESP, pursuant to the regulation that guide issuance of the type of permit.

(Authority: The authority for this action is the Endangered Species Act of 1973, as amended (16 U.S.C. 1531 et seq.).)

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Dated: January 11, 2007.

James J. Slack,

Deputy Regional Director, Denver, Colorado.

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[FR Doc. E7-3378 Filed 2-26-07; 8:45 am]

BILLING CODE 4310-55-P