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Notice

Receipt of Incidental Take Permit Application and Proposed Habitat Conservation Plan for the Sand Skink and Blue-Tailed Mole Skink; Highlands County, FL; Categorical Exclusion

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Start Preamble

AGENCY:

Fish and Wildlife Service, Interior.

ACTION:

Notice of availability; request for comments and information.

SUMMARY:

We, the Fish and Wildlife Service (Service), announce receipt of an application from Palmetto Avon Park-HWY 17, LLC (applicant) for an incidental take permit (ITP) under the Endangered Species Act. The applicant requests the ITP to take the federally listed sand skink and blue-tailed mole skink incidental to the construction of a commercial development in Highlands County, Florida. We request public comment on the application, which includes the applicant's proposed habitat conservation plan (HCP), and on the Service's preliminary determination that this HCP qualifies as “low-effect,” categorically excluded under the National Environmental Policy Act. To make this determination, we used our environmental action statement and low-effect screening form, both of which are also available for public review.

DATES:

We must receive your written comments on or before December 21, 2020.

ADDRESSES:

Obtaining Documents: You may obtain copies of the documents online in Docket No. FWS-R4-ES-2020-0135 at http://www.regulations.gov.

Submitting Comments: If you wish to submit comments on any of the documents, you may do so in writing through the following methods:

  • Online: http://www.regulations.gov. Follow the instructions for submitting comments on Docket No. FWS-R4-ES-2020-0135.
  • U.S. mail: Public Comments Processing, Attn: Docket No. FWS-R4-ES-2020-0135; U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, MS: PRB/3W, 5275 Leesburg Pike, Falls Church, VA 22041-3803.
Start Further Info

FOR FURTHER INFORMATION CONTACT:

Alfredo Begazo, by telephone at (772) 469-4234 or via email at alfredo_begazo@fws.gov. Individuals who are hearing impaired or speech impaired may call the Federal Relay Service at 1-800-877-8339 for TTY assistance.

End Further Info End Preamble Start Supplemental Information

SUPPLEMENTARY INFORMATION:

We, the Fish and Wildlife Service (Service), announce receipt of an application from Palmetto Avon Park-HWY 17, LLC (applicant) for an incidental take permit (ITP) under the Endangered Species Act of 1973, as amended (ESA; 16 U.S.C. 1531 et seq.). The applicant requests the ITP to take the federally listed sand skink (Neoseps reynoldsi) and blue-tailed mole skink (Eumeces egregious lividus) (skinks) incidental to the construction of a commercial development in Highlands County, Florida. We request public comment on the application, which includes the applicant's HCP, and on the Service's preliminary determination that this HCP qualifies as “low-effect,” categorically excluded under the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA; 42 U.S.C. 4321 et seq.). To make this determination, we used our environmental action statement and low-effect screening form, both of which are also available for public review.

Project

The applicant requests a 5-year ITP to take skinks through the conversion of approximately 0.9 acres of occupied skink foraging and sheltering habitat incidental to the construction of a commercial development on a 1.35-acre parcel in Section 6, Township 34S, Range 29E in Highlands County, Florida. The applicant proposes to mitigate for take of the skinks by purchasing credits equivalent to 1.80 acre of skink-occupied habitat from a Service-approved conservation bank in Highlands County. The Service would require the applicant to purchase the credits prior to engaging in any phase of the project.

Public Availability of Comments

Before including your address, phone number, email address, or other personal identifying information in your comment, be aware that your entire comment, including your personal identifying information, may be made available to the public. While you may request that we withhold your personal identifying information, we cannot guarantee that we will be able to do so.

Our Preliminary Determination

The Service has made a preliminary determination that the applicant's project, including the construction of stores, driveways, parking areas, a storm water pond, and associated infrastructure (e.g., electric, water, and sewer lines) would individually and cumulatively have a minor or negligible effect on the skinks and the environment. Therefore, we have preliminarily concluded that the ITP for this project would qualify for categorical exclusion and the HCP would be low effect under our NEPA regulations at 43 CFR 46.205 and 46.210. A low-effect HCP is one that would result in (1) minor or negligible effects on federally listed, proposed, and candidate species and their habitats; (2) minor or negligible effects on other environmental values or resources; and, (3) impacts that, when considered together with the impacts of other past, present, and reasonable foreseeable similarly situated projects, would not result in significant cumulative effects to environmental values or resources over time.

Next Steps

The Service will evaluate the application and the comments to determine whether to issue the requested permit. We will also conduct an intra-Service consultation pursuant to section 7 of the ESA to evaluate the effects of the proposed take. After considering the preceding matters, we will determine whether the permit issuance criteria of section 10(a)(1)(B) of the ESA have been met. If met, the Service will issue ITP number TE82107D-0 to Palmetto Avon Park-HWY 17, LLC.

Authority

The Service provides this notice under section 10(c) of the ESA (16 U.S.C. 1539(c)) and NEPA regulation 40 CFR 1506.6.

Start Signature

Roxanna Hinzman,

Field Supervisor, South Florida Ecological Services Office.

End Signature End Supplemental Information

[FR Doc. 2020-25567 Filed 11-18-20; 8:45 am]

BILLING CODE 4333-15-P