Fish and Wildlife Service, Interior.
Jeffrey and Patricia Adams (Applicants) request an incidental take permit (ITP) pursuant to section 10(a)(1)(B) of the Endangered Species Act of 1973 (16 U.S.C. 1531 et seq.), as amended (Act). The Applicants anticipate removal of about 0.22 acre of Florida scrub-jay (Aphelocoma coerulescens) (scrub-jay) foraging, sheltering, and possibly nesting habitat, incidental to lot preparation for the construction of a single-family home and supporting infrastructure in Sarasota County, Florida (project). The loss of 0.22 acre of foraging, sheltering, and possibly nesting habitat is expected to result in the take of one family of scrub-jays.
The Applicants' Habitat Conservation Plan (HCP) describes the mitigation and minimization measures proposed to address the effects of the project to the scrub-jay. These measures are outlined in the SUPPLEMENTARY INFORMATION section below. The Service has determined that the Applicants' proposal, including the proposed mitigation and minimization measures, would 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 qualifies as a categorical exclusion under the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA), as provided by the Department of Interior Manual (516 DM 2, Appendix 1 and 516 DM 6, Appendix 1). The Service announces the availability of the Applicants' ITP application, HCP, and Screening Form for Low-Effect HCP Determinations for the incidental take application. Copies of the ITP application, HCP, and Screening Form 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 Act and NEPA regulations (40 CFR 1506.6).
Written comments on the ITP application, HCP, and Screening Form should be sent to the Service's Regional Office (see ADDRESSES) and should be received on or before September 15 2005.
Persons wishing to review the application, HCP, and Screening Form may obtain a copy by writing the Service's Southeast Regional Office at the address below. Please reference permit number TE096080-0 in such requests. Documents will also be available for public inspection by appointment during normal business hours at the Southeast Regional Office, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, 1875 Century Boulevard, Suite 200, Atlanta, Georgia 30345 (Attn: Endangered Species Permits), or at the South Florida Ecological Services Field Office, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, 1339 20th Street, Vero Beach, Florida 32960-3559 (Attn: Field Supervisor).Start Further Info
FOR FURTHER INFORMATION CONTACT:
Mr. David Dell, Regional HCP Coordinator, Southeast Regional Office (see ADDRESSES above), telephone: 404-679-7313, facsimile: 404-679-7081; or Mr. George Dennis, Fish and Wildlife Ecologist, South Florida Ecological Services Field Office (see ADDRESSES above), telephone: 772-562-3909, ext. 309.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 TE096080-0 in such comments. You may mail comments to the Service's Southeast 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 e-mail message. If you do not receive a confirmation from us that we have received your e-mail message, contact us directly at either telephone number listed above (see FOR FURTHER INFORMATION CONTACT). Finally, you may hand-deliver comments to either Service office listed above (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 addresses 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 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 (well-drained, sandy soil habitats supporting a growth of oak-dominated scrub). Increasing urban and agricultural development has resulted in habitat loss and fragmentation, which has 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 west-central Florida has been exacerbated by tremendous urban growth in the past 50 years. Historical commercial and residential development has occurred Start Printed Page 48190on 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 west-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 interruption of the natural fire regime which is needed to maintain xeric uplands in conditions suitable for scrub-jays.
The scrub-jays reported using the subject residential lot and adjacent properties are part of a larger complex of scrub-jays located in a matrix of urban and natural settings in southern Sarasota County. The project site represents a portion of an isolated scrub-jay territory. 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 is likely to 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 are unlikely to persist in urban settings, 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 would result in harm to scrub-jays, incidental to the carrying out of these otherwise lawful activities. Habitat alteration associated with the proposed residential construction would reduce the availability of foraging, sheltering, and possible nesting habitat for one family of scrub-jays. The Applicants propose to conduct clearing activities outside of the nesting season. The Applicants propose to remove any exotic vegetation from the lot and maintain the remaining area in native vegetation for use by the resident scrub-jays. The Applicants propose to replace any scrub oaks and wax myrtles that might be removed during land clearing. The Applicants propose to avoid landscaping with trees that would grow tall (greater than 30 feet) and potentially provide perch trees for predators that could prey on scrub-jays on this lot and surrounding unimproved lots. The Applicants would not have any free-roaming cats as they can be a potential predator on young scrub-jays.
The Applicants also propose to mitigate the take of scrub-jays through contribution of $4,000 to the Sarasota County Scrub-jay Mitigation Plan Fund administered by Sarasota County. Funds in this account are earmarked for use in the conservation and recovery of scrub-jays and may include habitat acquisition, restoration, and management. The Applicants assert that the $4,000 payment is the maximum extent of mitigation practicable for them while still allowing them to implement on-site mitigation measures.
The Service has determined that the HCP is a low-effect plan that is categorically excluded from further NEPA analysis, and does not require the preparation of an Environmental Assessment or Environmental Impact Statement. This preliminary information may be revised based on our review of any public comments that we receive in response to this notice. Low-effect HCPs are those involving: (1) Minor or negligible effects on federally listed or candidate species and their habitats, and (2) minor or negligible effects on other environmental values or resources. The Applicants' 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 significant direct or cumulative effects to the Florida scrub-jay population as a result of the 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 actions or represent a decision in principle about future actions with potentially significant environmental effects.
The Service has determined that approval of the Plan qualifies as a categorical exclusion under NEPA, as provided by the Department of the Interior Manual (516 DM 2, Appendix 1, and 516 DM 6, Appendix 1). Therefore, no further NEPA documentation will 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, the ITP will be issued for incidental take of the Florida scrub-jay. The Service will also evaluate whether issuance of the section 10(a)(1)(B) ITP complies with section 7 of the Act by conducting an intra-Service section 7 consultation. The results of this consultation, in combination with the above findings, will be used in the final analysis to determine whether or not to issue the ITP.Start Signature
Dated: July 18, 2005.
Cynthia K. Dohner,
Acting Regional Director.
[FR Doc. 05-16168 Filed 8-15-05; 8:45 am]
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