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Notice

Receipt of an Application for an Incidental Take Permit for Construction on a Single-Family Lot, in Brevard County, FL

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Information about this document as published in the Federal Register.

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AGENCY:

Fish and Wildlife Service, Interior.

ACTION:

Notice.

SUMMARY:

Michael Hoffman (Applicant), seeks an incidental take permit (ITP) from the Fish and Wildlife Service (Service), pursuant to section 10(a)(1)(B) of the Endangered Species Act of 1973 (Act), as amended. The ITP would authorize incidental take of the Florida scrub-jay (Aphelocoma coerulescens) and the eastern indigo snake (Drymarchon corais couperi), on a single family lot for a period of twenty (20) years. The proposed taking is incidental to land clearing and other activities associated with the construction of a single family home on a 1.21-acre lot in Brevard County, Florida (Project).

The Applicant's Habitat Conservation Plan (HCP) describes the mitigation and minimization measures proposed to address the effects of the Project to the Florida scrub-jay. These measures are outlined in the SUPPLEMENTARY INFORMATION section below. We have determined that the Applicant's proposal, including the proposed mitigation and minimization measures, will individually and cumulatively have a minor or negligible effect on the species covered in the HCP. Therefore, the ITP is a “low-effect” project and would qualify as a categorical exclusion under the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA), as provided by the Department of Interior Manual (516 DM2, Appendix 1 and 516 DM 6, Appendix 1). We announce the availability of the HCP for the incidental take application. Copies of the HCP may be obtained by making a request to the Regional Office (see ADDRESSES). Requests must be in writing to be processed. This notice is provided pursuant to Section 10 of the Endangered Species Act and NEPA regulations (40 CFR 1506.6).

DATES:

Written comments on the permit application, supporting documentation, categorical exclusion and HCP should be sent to the Service's Regional Office (see ADDRESSES) and should be received on or before April 26, 2004.

ADDRESSES:

Persons wishing to review the application and HCP may obtain a copy by writing the Service's Southeast Regional Office, Atlanta, Georgia. Please reference permit number TE070282-0 in such requests. Documents will also be available for public inspection by appointment during normal business hours at the Regional Office, 1875 Century Boulevard, Suite 200, Atlanta, Georgia 30345 (Attn: Endangered Species Permits), or Field Supervisor, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, 6620 Southpoint Drive South, Suite 310, Jacksonville, Florida 32216-0912.

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FOR FURTHER INFORMATION CONTACT:

Mr. David Dell, Regional HCP Coordinator, (see ADDRESSES above), telephone: 404/679-7313, facsimile: 404/679-7081; or Mr. Michael Jennings, Fish and Wildlife Biologist, Jacksonville Ecological Services Office, (see ADDRESSES above), telephone: 904/232-2580 extension 126.

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SUPPLEMENTARY INFORMATION:

If you wish to comment, you may submit comments by any one of several methods. Please reference permit number TE070282-0 in such comments. You may mail comments to the Service's Regional Office (see ADDRESSES). You may also comment via the internet to david_dell@fws.gov. Please submit comments over the internet as an ASCII file avoiding the use of special characters and any form of encryption. Please also include your name and return address in your internet message. If you do not receive a confirmation from us that we have received your internet message, contact us directly at either telephone number listed below (see FOR FURTHER INFORMATION CONTACT). Finally, you may hand deliver comments to either Service office listed below (see ADDRESSES). Our practice is to make comments, including names and home addresses of respondents, available for public review during regular business hours. Individual respondents may request that we withhold their home address from the administrative record. We will honor such requests to the extent allowable by law. There may also be other circumstances in which we would withhold from the administrative record a respondent's identity, as allowable by law. If you wish us to withhold your name and address, you must state this prominently at the beginning of your comments. We will not, however, consider anonymous comments. We Start Printed Page 15358will make all submissions from organizations or businesses, and from individuals identifying themselves as representatives or officials of organizations or businesses, available for public inspection in their entirety.

The Florida scrub-jay (scrub-jay) is geographically isolated from other species of scrub-jays found in Mexico and the Western United States. The scrub-jay is found exclusively in peninsular Florida and is restricted to xeric uplands. The total estimated population is between 7,000 and 11,000 individuals. Due to habitat loss and degradation throughout the State of Florida, it has been estimated that the Florida scrub-jay population has been reduced by at least half in the last 100 years. Surveys have indicated that at least one family of Florida scrub-jays inhabit the Project site. Construction of one and possibly two homes on this site will likely result in death of, or injury to, scrub-jays incidental to the carrying out of these otherwise lawful activities. Habitat alteration associated with property development will reduce the availability of feeding, shelter, and nesting habitat.

Section 9 of the Act, and implementing regulations, prohibits taking the Florida scrub-jay and eastern indigo snake. Taking, in part, is defined as an activity that kills, injures, harms, or harasses a listed endangered or threatened species. Section 10(a)(1)(B) of the Act provides an exemption, under certain circumstances, to the Section 9 prohibition if the taking is incidental to, and not the purpose of otherwise lawful activities.

Research conducted by Breininger in 2001 and submitted to the Service in an annual progress report in 2002, indicated at least one family of Florida scrub-jays and their use of suitable habitat on the Applicant's property. Land clearing in preparation of residential construction will destroy occupied Florida scrub-jay habitat on the property, and adversely affect the ability of individual birds to feed, breed or shelter within the property to such an extent as to meet the definition of “take” in the Act.

The HCP describes measures the Applicant will take to avoid and mitigate impacts resulting from the Project. To minimize impacts to scrub-jays, the Applicant will not clear vegetation or begin construction during the scrub-jay nesting season (March 1-June 30). Minimization measures for the eastern indigo snake including educating the contractors about how to identify the species and what to do if one is seen on site, will be implemented. The Applicant has agreed to a number of measures to avoid injury or death of any eastern indigo snakes which may be found on the project site. To mitigate for the 1.21 acres of occupied scrub-jay and eastern indigo snake habitat that would be destroyed on-site, the Applicant will purchase 3.26 acres of habitat that supports Florida scrub-jays and transfer fee title of the property to the Brevard County Environmentally Endangered Lands (EEL's) program. It is believed that ensuring the protection and viability of quality, occupied habitat in a large contiguous preserve is more beneficial to the scrub-jay than any on-site mitigation plan could offer.

As earlier stated, the Service has determined that the Plan qualifies as a “low-effect” HCP as defined by the Service's Habitat Conservation Planning Handbook (November 1996). Low-effect HCPs are those involving: (1) minor or negligible effects on federally listed and candidate species and their habitats, and (2) minor or negligible effects on other environmental values or resources. The Applicant's HCP qualifies for the following reasons:

1. Approval of the HCP would result in minor or negligible effects on the Florida scrub-jay and the eastern indigo snake populations as a whole. The Service does not anticipate a significant reduction in population numbers as a result of the construction project.

2. Approval of the HCP would not have adverse effects on known unique geographic, historic or cultural sites, or involve unique or unknown environmental risks.

3. Approval of the HCP would not result in any significant adverse effects on public health or safety.

4. The project does not require compliance with Executive Order 11988 (Floodplain Management), Executive Order 11990 (Protection of Wetlands), or the Fish and Wildlife Coordination Act, nor does it threaten to violate a Federal, State, local or tribal law or requirement imposed for the protection of the environment.

5. Approval of the Plan would not establish a precedent for future action or represent a decision in principle about future actions with potentially significant environmental effects.

The Service has therefore determined that issuance of an ITP to the Applicant qualifies as a categorical exclusion under the NEPA, as provided by the Department of the Interior Manual (516 DM 2, Appendix 1 and 516 DM 6, Appendix 1). No further NEPA documentation will therefore be prepared.

The Service will evaluate the HCP and comments submitted thereon to determine whether the application meets the requirements of section 10(a) of the Act. If it is determined that those requirements are met, an ITP will be issued for the incidental take of the Florida scrub-jay and the eastern indigo snake. The Service will also evaluate whether the issuance of a Section 10(a)(1)(B) ITP complies with Section 7 of the Act by conducting an intra-Service Section 7 consultation. The results of the consultation, in combination with the above findings, will be used in the final analysis to determine whether or not to issue the ITP; the final decision will be made no sooner than 30 days from the date of this notice

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Dated: March 11, 2004.

J. Mitch King,

Acting Regional Director.

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[FR Doc. 04-6665 Filed 3-24-04; 8:45 am]

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