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Notice

Receipt of Three Applications for Incidental Take Permits for Construction of Five Single-Family Homes in Brevard County, FL

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AGENCY:

Fish and Wildlife Service, Interior.

ACTION:

Notice.

SUMMARY:

Ali Markieh, Guruday Chunilall, and Anthony Thomas (Applicants) each request an incidental take permit (ITP), for a one-year term, pursuant to section 10(a)(1)(B) of the Endangered Species Act of 1973, as amended (Act). The Applicants anticipate taking about 1.27 acres combined of Florida scrub-jay (Aphelocoma coerulescens) (scrub-jay) foraging and sheltering habitat incidental to lot preparation for the construction of five single-family homes and supporting infrastructure in Brevard County, Florida (Project). The destruction of 1.27 acres of foraging and sheltering habitat is expected to result in the take of two families of scrub-jays. The Applicants' Habitat Conservation Plans (HCPs) describe the mitigation and minimization measures proposed to address the effects of the Projects to the Florida scrub-jay. These measures are outlined in the SUPPLEMENTARY INFORMATION section below.

DATES:

Written comments on the ITP applications and HCPs should be sent to the Service's Regional Office (see ADDRESSES) and should be received on or before August 31, 2006.

ADDRESSES:

Persons wishing to review the applications and HCPs may obtain a copy by writing the Service's Southeast Regional Office, Atlanta, Georgia. Please reference permit number TE105729-0, for Markieh, number TE105730-0, for Chunillal, and number TE105728-0, for Thomas 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 Ms. Erin Gawera, Fish and Wildlife Biologist, Jacksonville Field Office, Jacksonville, Florida (see ADDRESSES above), telephone: 904/232-2580, ext. 121.

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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 TE105729-0, for Markieh, number TE105730-0, for Chunillal, and number TE105728-0, for Thomas 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 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 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 (predominately in 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.

Residential construction for Markieh will take place within section 05, Township 29 South, Range 37 East, Palm Bay, Brevard County, Florida on lots 2, 3, and 4, Block 356. Residential construction for Chunilall will take place within Section 05, Township 29 South, Range 37 East, Palm Bay, Brevard County, Florida on Lot 12, Block 302. Residential construction for Thomas will take place within section 16, Township 29 South, Range 37 East, Palm Bay, Brevard County, Florida on Lot 25, Block 758. Each of these lots are within 438 feet of locations where scrub-jays were sighted during surveys for this species from 1999 to 2003.

Scrub-jays using the subject residential lots and adjacent properties are part of a larger complex of scrub-jays Start Printed Page 43511located in a matrix of urban and natural settings in areas of southern 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.

The Applicants' properties provide habitat for foraging and sheltering. Accordingly, loss of this habitat due to residential construction will result in the destruction of scrub-jay habitat. The lots combined encompass about 1.27 acres and the footprint of the homes, 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. Therefore, no on-site minimization measures are proposed to reduce take of scrub-jays.

In combination, the Applicants propose to mitigate for the loss of 1.27 acres of scrub-jay habitat by contributing a total of $15,977 ($9,660 for Markieh, $3,377 for Chunilall, and $2,940 for Thomas) 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. The $15,977 is sufficient to acquire and perpetually manage 2.54 acres of suitable occupied scrub-jay habitat based on a replacement ratio of two mitigation acres per one impact acre. The cost is based on previous acquisitions of mitigation lands in southern Brevard County at an average $5,700 per acre, plus a $1,000 per acre management endowment necessary to ensure future management of acquired scrub-jay habitat. In addition, a 5 percent operating cost of $335 per acre will be included. Mr. Thomas's mitigation was calculated at a total cost of $5,250 per acre. He had been given prior information from the Service on the mitigation costs in August 2004.

We have determined that the Applicants' 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 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). This preliminary information may be revised based on our review of 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.

We will evaluate the HCPs and comments submitted thereon to determine whether the application meets the requirements of section 10(a) of the Act (16 U.S.C. 1531 et seq.). If we determine that those requirements are met, the ITPs will be issued for incidental take of the Florida scrub-jay. We will also evaluate whether issuance of the section 10(a)(1)(B) ITPs comply 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 ITPs. This notice is provided pursuant to section 10 of the Endangered Species Act and National Environmental Policy Act regulations (40 CFR 1506.6).

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Dated: July 3, 2006.

Cynthia K. Dohner,

Acting Regional Director, Southeast Region.

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[FR Doc. E6-12303 Filed 7-31-06; 8:45 am]

BILLING CODE 4310-55-P