Fish and Wildlife Service, Interior.
Maronda Homes, Inc. Of Florida (Applicant), seeks an incidental take permit (ITP) from the U.S. Fish and Wildlife 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), on three adjoining single family lots for a period of one (1) year. The proposed taking, which would affect one family of scrub-jays, is incidental to land clearing and other activities associated with the construction of three single family homes on three 0.22-acre lots (0.66 acre total) 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, Start Printed Page 15359the 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).
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.
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 TE080452-0 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.Start Further Info
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 113.End Further Info End Preamble Start Supplemental Information
If you wish to comment, you may submit comments by any one of several methods. Please reference permit number TE080452-0 in such comments. You may mail comments to the Service's Regional Office (see ADDRESSES). You may also comment via the Internet to firstname.lastname@example.org. 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 will 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 subspecies 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 (predominately in oak-dominated scrub). Increasing urban and agricultural development and subsequent fire protection have resulted in habitat degradation, loss and fragmentation which adversely affected the distribution and numbers of scrub-jays. The total estimated population is between 7,000 and 11,000 individuals.
The decline in the number and distribution of scrub-jays in east-central Florida has been exacerbated by tremendous urban growth in the past 50 years. Much of the historic commercial and residential development has occurred on the dry soils which previously supported scrub-jay habitat. Based on existing soils data, much of the historic and current scrub-jay habitat of coastal east-central Florida occurs proximal to the current shoreline and larger river basins. Much of this area of Florida was settled early because few wetlands restricted urban and agricultural development. Due to the effects of urban and agricultural development over the past 100 years, much of the remaining scrub-jay habitat is now relatively small and isolated. What remains is largely degraded due to the exclusion of fire which is needed to maintain xeric uplands in conditions suitable for scrub-jays.
Lots 3 and 4 are locations where scrub-jays were sighted during 2002 county surveys for this species; no observations were recorded on Lot 5. Scrub-jays using the subject residential lots and adjacent properties are part of a larger complex of scrub-jays located in a matrix of urban and natural settings in areas of Brevard and northern Indian River counties. Within the City of Palm Bay, 20 families of scrub-jays persist in habitat fragmented by residential development. Scrub-jays in urban areas are particularly vulnerable and typically do not successfully produce young that survive to adulthood. Persistent urban growth in this area will likely result in further reductions in the amount of suitable habitat for scrub-jays. Increasing urban pressures are also likely to result in the continued degradation of scrub-jay habitat as fire exclusion slowly results in vegetative overgrowth. Thus, over the long-term, scrub-jays within the City of Palm Bay are unlikely to persist, and conservation efforts for this species should target acquisition and management of large parcels of land outside the direct influence of urbanization.
Construction of the Project's infrastructure and facilities will result in harm to scrub-jays, incidental to the carrying out of these otherwise lawful activities. Habitat alteration associated with the proposed residential construction will reduce the availability of foraging and sheltering habitat and potential nesting habitat for one family of scrub-jays.
Section 9 of the Act, and implementing regulations, prohibits taking the Florida scrub-jay. 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.
The Applicants do not propose to implement on-site minimization measures to reduce take of scrub-jays. All three lots, in combination, encompass about 0.66 acre and the footprint of the home, infrastructure and landscaping preclude retention of scrub-jay habitat. On-site minimization may not be a biologically viable alternative due to increasing negative demographic effects caused by urbanization.
The Applicant proposes to mitigate for the loss of 0.66 acres of scrub-jay habitat by contributing $8,844 to the Florida Scrub-jay Conservation Fund administered by the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation. Funds in this account are ear-marked for use in the conservation and recovery of scrub-jays and may include habitat acquisition, restoration, and/or management.
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 Start Printed Page 15360Handbook (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 population 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. 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.Start Signature
Dated: March 11, 2004.
J. Mitch King,
Acting Regional Director.
[FR Doc. 04-6666 Filed 3-24-04; 8:45 am]
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