national parks

Feb 052015

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Posted for Public Inspection 

NMFS begins 5-year reviews of 32 listed species: 17 evolutionarily significant units (ESUs) of Pacific salmon; 11 distinct population segments (DPSs) of steelhead; the Puget Sound/Georgia Basin DPSs of yelloweye rockfish, canary rockfish, and bocaccio rockfish; and the southern DPS of eulachon | More information at NMFS West Coast Region page

EPA receives EIS's for review

Agriculture: Under direction from Congress, EPA and Corps withdraw interpretive rule addressing the exemption from permitting provided under section 404(f)(1)(A) of the Clean Water Act | Regulatory docket  | The interpretive rule said "it is reasonable to conclude that agricultural conservation practices that are associated with waters and where water quality benefits accrue are similar enough to also be exempt from the section 404 permitting requirements. This interpretation preserves congressional intent by ensuring that beneficial agricultural conservation practices will not be unnecessarily restricted so long as those activities are designed and implemented to protect and enhance water quality and do not destroy waters."        -- Coverage from Farm Futures :: Interpretive rule

Forest Service issues final directives to "provide consistent overall guidance to Forest Service Line Officers and Agency employees in developing, amending, or revising land management plans for units of the NFS." | FACA page with more information

BLM extends public comment period to March 9 for the Draft Las Vegas and Pahrump Field Offices Resource Management Plan and EIS

NPS: Cape Cod National Seashore Advisory Commission to meet March 30. Shorebirds, wetlands on docket

Ocean Energy Management Bureau (BOEM): Two lease sale notices for Gulf of Mexico

BuRec and the City of San Bernardino Municipal Water Department will prepare a joint EIS/R to evaluate the effects of the Clean Water Factory project. "The proposed Clean Water Factory is a water reclamation project to treat and reuse municipal wastewater that is currently discharged to the Santa Ana River. The reclaimed water will be used for groundwater recharge and landscape irrigation."

Dates link to FR Tables of Contents

Thursday, Feb. 5, 2015

FWS receives endangered species permit applications (zoos, sport-hunted trophies)

Wednesday, Feb. 4, 2015

Corps will prepare separate EIS's on the Halligan Water Supply Project and the Seaman Water Supply Project in northeastern Colorado. "Constructing the proposed projects would impact jurisdictional waters of the United States, thereby requiring Clean Water Act Section 404 permits. The cities of Fort Collins and Greeley have proposed the projects to meet existing and future water demands during droughts, more efficiently manage the cities' existing or future water rights, provide some operational redundancy, and possibly enhance river functions."

President Obama sets federal flood risk management standard (White House page) (FR notice)

Interior Dept. renews the Trinity River Adaptive Management Working Group for 2 years | TAMWG home page

Nov 212014

A conservation group in Montana will have another chance to challenge helicopter hazing of bison in Yellowstone National Park following a Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals ruling Thursday, but the court may have made its task a little harder (Alliance for the Wild Rockies v. USDA, 13-35253).

That's because the court, while finding that the district court below had wrongly denied standing to Alliance for the Wild Rockies., also concluded that the Montana Department of Livestock's harassment of bison by air did not result in a "take" under the ESA's Section 9. The panel also rejected the plaintiff-appellant's ESA Section 7, National Environmental Policy Act and National Forest Management Act claims.

However, the panel -- Circuit Judges Mary M. Schroeder, Richard A. Paez, and Marsha S. Berzon -- also reversed the district court's ruling that AWR had not complied with the ESA's 60-day notice-of-intent-to-sue provision by filing suit before 60 days had expired.

"Although the federal defendants urge that the legislative purpose of the notice requirement is to afford agencies a complete 'litigation free window' in which to remedy alleged ESA violations, they fail to identify any provision in the statute which suggests that the ESA's notice requirement should be interpreted to preclude filing of a complaint alleging non-ESA claims before the 60-day notice period expires," the court said.

But the court affirmed the dismissal of AWR's ESA claims against the Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service and FWS because they were not included in AWR's 60-day notice.

Here's the unofficial summary provided by the court:

The panel affirmed in part and reversed in part the district court's judgment in favor of federal and Montana state agencies and officials in an action brought by Alliance for the Wild Rockies, challenging the decision to permit recurring, low-altitude helicopter flights to haze bison in the Yellowstone Grizzly Bear Recovery Zone. To minimize disease transfer between wild bison and cattle in the Greater Yellowstone Area, the bison are managed, in part, according to an Interagency Bison Management Plan which includes using hazing operations to move the bison. The Yellowstone grizzly bear also inhabits the same area, and is listed as a threatened species under the Endangered Species Act. Under Section 7 of the ESA, the National Park Service prepared biological evaluations for the management plan which were approved by the United States Fish and Wildlife Service, and concluded that the helicopter hazing operations would not adversely affect the Yellowstone grizzly. Section 9 of the ESA prohibits the "taking" -- which can include harassing -- of an endangered or threatened species.

The panel reversed the district court's holding that Alliance lacked standing to bring its ESA and National Environmental Policy Act claims. The panel also reversed the district court's ruling that Alliance failed to comply with the ESA citizen suit 60-day notice provision. The panel affirmed the dismissal of all of Alliance's ESA claims against the United States Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service and Fish and Wildlife Service because they were not included in  the 60-day notice on which Alliance relied.

The panel held that Alliance's ESA Section 7 claim was moot because the federal defendants had already completed a second biological evaluation consultation addressing the impact of helicopter hazing on the Yellowstone grizzly bears, and affirmed the district court's grant of summary judgment to the federal defendants and grant of dismissal to Montana on the claim. The panel also affirmed the district court's grant of summary judgment to the federal defendants and grant of dismissal to Montana on Alliance's ESA Section 9 claim because no genuine issues of material fact existed in the record concerning whether a take of a Yellowstone grizzly bear had occurred or was likely to occur. Finally,  the panel affirmed the grant of summary judgment to the federal defendants on the NEPA and National Forest Management Act claims.

Coverage in Bozeman Chronicle