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Notice

Availability of a Proposed Safe Harbor Agreement for the Valley Elderberry Longhorn Beetle for Landowners Restoring Riparian Habitat in the Lower Mokelumne River Watershed in San Joaquin County, California

Document Details

Information about this document as published in the Federal Register.

Published Document

This document has been published in the Federal Register. Use the PDF linked in the document sidebar for the official electronic format.

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AGENCY:

Fish and Wildlife Service, Interior.

ACTION:

Notice of availability; receipt of application

SUMMARY:

This notice advises the public that the California Association of Resource Conservation Districts (Applicant) has applied to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (Service) for an enhancement of survival permit pursuant to Section 10(a)(1)(A) of the Endangered Species Act of 1973, as amended (16 U.S.C. 1531 et seq.) (Act). The permit application includes a proposed Safe Harbor Agreement (Agreement) between the Applicant and the Service for the threatened valley elderberry longhorn beetle (VELB) (Desmocerus californicus dimorphus). The Agreement and permit application are available for public comment.

DATES:

Written comments should be received on or before April 26, 2006.

ADDRESSES:

Comments should be addressed to Shannon Holbrook, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, Sacramento Fish and Wildlife Office, 2800 Cottage Way, W-2605, Sacramento, California 95825. Written comments may be sent by facsimile to (916) 414-6711.

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FOR FURTHER INFORMATION CONTACT:

Ms. Shannon Holbrook, Sacramento Fish and Wildlife Office (see ADDRESSES); telephone: (916) 414-6600.

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SUPPLEMENTARY INFORMATION:

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Availability of Documents

You may obtain copies of the documents for review by contacting the individual named above. You may also make an appointment to view the documents at the above address during normal business hours.

Background

Under a Safe Harbor Agreement, participating landowners voluntarily undertake management activities on their property to enhance, restore, or maintain habitat benefiting species listed under the Act. Safe Harbor Agreements, and the subsequent enhancement of survival permits that are issued pursuant to Section 10(a)(1)(A) of the Act, encourage private and other non-Federal property owners to implement conservation efforts for listed species by assuring property owners that they will not be subjected to increased property use restrictions as a result of their efforts to attract listed species to their property, or to increase the numbers or distribution of listed species already on their property. Application requirements and issuance criteria for enhancement of survival permits through Safe Harbor Agreements are found in 50 CFR 17.22(c).

We have worked with the Applicant to develop this proposed Agreement for the conservation of the VELB on private properties in the lower Mokelumne River watershed in San Joaquin County, California. For purposes of the Agreement, the lower Mokelumne River watershed extends from the confluence with the Cosumnes River, upstream to the Camanche Dam, exclusive of lands within the watershed of Dry Creek upstream of its crossing with Highway 99.

This Agreement provides for the creation of a Program in which private landowners (Program Participants), who enter into written cooperative agreements with the Applicant pursuant to the terms of the Agreement, will restore, enhance, and maintain riparian habitat suitable for the VELB. Such cooperative agreements will be for a term of at least 10 years. The proposed duration of the Agreement is 50 years, and the proposed term of the enhancement of survival permit is 52 years. The permit would run the additional two years following a determination by the Service that the actions identified in the Agreement were implemented prior to the Agreement's expiration. The Agreement fully describes the proposed Program, management activities to be undertaken by Program Participants, and the conservation benefits expected to be gained for the VELB.

Upon approval of this Agreement, and consistent with the Service's Safe Harbor Policy published in the Federal Register on June 17, 1999 (64 FR 32717), the Service would issue a permit to the Applicants authorizing take of VELB incidental to the implementation of the management activities specified in the cooperative agreements, incidental to other lawful uses of the properties including normal, routine land management activities, or to return to pre-Agreement conditions.

To benefit the VELB, Program Participants will agree to undertake management activities specified in their written cooperative agreements with the Applicant. Such management activities include the planting of elderberry (Sambucus sp.) bushes; the planting of other native species typical of the canopy, subcanopy, shrub, and herbaceous layers found in Valley Foothill Riparian habitats, as defined in the California Department of Fish and Game's “California Wildlife Habitat Relationships System,” and certain limitations on the use of pesticides or herbicides in or near restored areas. In addition, cooperative agreements may include certain additional management activities, such as removing non-native invasive species, implementing prescribed burns, and special monitoring activities. Take of VELB incidental to the aforementioned activities is unlikely, however, it is possible that in the course of such activities, a Program Participant could incidentally take a VELB, thereby necessitating take authority under the permit.

Elderberry bushes are the exclusive host plants for the larval VELB, which develops inside the stems of the bush. Pre-Agreement conditions (baseline), consisting of the number of elderberry bushes having one or more stems that are one-inch or greater in diameter at the base, shall be determined for each enrolled property as provided in the Agreement. In order to receive the above assurances regarding incidental take of VELB, a Program Participant must maintain baseline conditions on the enrolled property. The Agreement and requested enhancement of survival permit will allow each Program Participant to return to baseline conditions after the end of the term of the 10-year cooperative agreement and prior to the expiration of the 52-year permit, if so desired by the Applicants.

Consistent with the Service's Safe Harbor Policy (64 FR 32717 et seq.), the proposed Agreement and requested permit also extend certain assurances to those lands that are immediately adjacent to lands on which restoration activities occur. To receive such assurances, a neighboring landowner must enter into a written agreement with the Service that specifies the baseline conditions on the property. This written agreement remains in effect until the expiration of the 50-year Agreement between the Applicant and the Service and requires the neighboring landowner to maintain the baseline conditions established at the start of the agreement.

Public Review and Comments

The Service has made a preliminary determination that the proposed Agreement and permit application are eligible for categorical exclusion under the National Environmental Policy Act of 1969 (NEPA). We explain the basis for this determination in an Environmental Action Statement, which is also available for public review.

Individuals wishing copies of the permit application, copies of our preliminary Environmental Action Statement, and/or copies of the full text of the Agreement, including a map of the proposed permit area, references, and legal descriptions of the proposed permit area, should contact the office and personnel listed in the ADDRESSES section above.

If you wish to comment on the permit application or the Agreement, you may submit your comments to the address listed in the ADDRESSES section of this document. Comments and materials received, including names and addresses of respondents, will be available for public review, by appointment, during normal business hours at the address in the ADDRESSES section above and will become part of the public record, pursuant to section 10(c) of the Act. Individual respondents may request that we withhold their home address from the record, which we will honor to the extent allowable by law. There also may be circumstances in which we would withhold from the record a respondent's identity, as allowable by law. If you wish us to withhold your name and/or address, you must state this prominently at the beginning of your comment. Anonymous comments will not be considered. All submissions from organizations or businesses, and from individuals identifying themselves as representatives or officials of organizations or businesses, are available for public inspection in their entirety.

We will evaluate this permit application, associated documents, and comments submitted thereon to Start Printed Page 15215determine whether the permit application meets the requirements of section 10(a) of the Act and NEPA regulations. If we determine that the requirements are met, we will sign the proposed Agreement and issue an enhancement of survival permit under section 10(a)(1)(A) of the Act to the Applicants for take of the VELB incidental to otherwise lawful activities in accordance with the terms of the Agreement. We will not make our final decision until after the end of the 30-day comment period and will fully consider all comments received during the comment period.

The Service provides this notice pursuant to section 10(c) of the Act and pursuant to implementing regulations for NEPA (40 CFR 1506.6).

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Dated: March 21, 2006.

Susan Moore,

Acting Field Supervisor, Sacramento Fish and Wildlife Office,Sacramento, California.

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[FR Doc. E6-4384 Filed 3-24-06; 8:45 am]

BILLING CODE 4310-55-P