[Federal Register: April 15, 1999 (Volume 64, Number 72)]
[Page 18628-18629]
From the Federal Register Online via GPO Access [wais.access.gpo.gov]



Fish and Wildlife Service

Notice of Intent to Prepare an Environmental Impact Statement in 
Anticipation of Receiving a Permit Application to Incidentally Take 
Threatened and Endangered Species in Association with a Multiple 
Habitat Conservation Plan for Northwestern San Diego County, California

AGENCY: Fish and Wildlife Service, DOI.

ACTION: Notice of Intent.


SUMMARY: The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (Service) is considering 
approval of a Multiple Habitat Conservation Plan (Plan) and issuance of 
an Endangered Species Act Incidental Take Permit. The Plan is being 
submitted by the San Diego Association of Governments (Association of 
Governments) and the Plan Advisory Committee representing seven 
participating cities in northwestern San Diego County, California. The 
seven participating cities are Carlsbad, San Marcos, Encinitas, 
Escondido, Oceanside, Solana Beach, and Vista. This long-term plan will 
accompany a future application to the Service for a permit under 
section 10(a)(1)(B) of the Endangered Species Act that would authorize 
incidental take of listed species and unlisted species that may be 
listed in the future. In response to the Plan, the Service intends to 
prepare a joint programmatic and project-level Environmental Impact 
Statement/Environmental Impact Report (Statement/Report) pursuant to 
the National Environmental Policy Act and the California Environmental 
Quality Act. The Plan covers an area of approximately 186 square-miles 
in northwestern San Diego County. The Plan addresses numerous sensitive 
plant and animal species and their habitats. The Plan creates a process 
for the issuance of permits and other authorizations under the Federal 
Endangered Species Act, California Endangered Species Act, and the 
California Natural Community Conservation Planning Act. This notice 
describes the proposed action and possible alternatives, notifies the 
public of a scoping meeting, invites public participation in the 
scoping process for preparing the joint Statement/Report, solicits 
written comments, and identifies the Service official to whom questions 
and comments concerning the proposed action and the joint Statement/
Report may be directed.

DATES: A public scoping meeting will be held on May 5, 1999 from 6:00 
to 8:00 p.m. at Encinitas City Hall (Poinsettia Room), 505 South 
Vulcan, Encinitas, California. Oral comments will be received during 
the scoping meeting. Written comments are encouraged and should be 
received on or before May 17, 1999.

ADDRESSES: Information, comments, or questions related to preparation 
of the joint Statement/Report and the National Environmental Policy Act 
process should be submitted to Sherry Barrett, Assistant Field 
Supervisor, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, 2730 Loker Avenue West, 
Carlsbad, California 92008. Written comments may also be sent by 
facsimile to telephone (760) 918-0638.

FOR FURTHER INFORMATION CONTACT: Ms. Julie Vanderwier, Fish and 
Wildlife Biologist, or Nancy Gilbert, Division Chief, at the above 
Carlsbad address, telephone (760) 431-9440. Persons wishing to obtain 
background material should contact Janet Fairbanks at the San Diego 
Association of Governments, 401 B Street, Suite 800, San Diego, 
California 92101, telephone (619) 595-5370.


Availability of Documents

    Documents will also be available for public inspection by 
appointment during normal business hours (8 a.m. to 5 p.m., Monday 
through Friday) at the Association of Governments office and at local 
libraries located in the seven participating cities.


    Listed wildlife species are protected against ``take'' pursuant to 
section 9 of the Act. That is, no one may harass, harm, pursue, hunt, 
shoot, wound, kill, trap, capture, or collect listed animal species, or 
attempt to engage in such conduct (16 USC 1538). The Service, however, 
may issue permits to take listed animal species if such taking is 
incidental to, and not the purpose of, otherwise lawful activities. 
Regulations governing permits for endangered species are at 50 CFR 
17.22 and 17.32. In anticipation of applying for an incidental take 
permit, the Association of Governments and participating cities are 
developing a Plan. The Plan study area comprises seven incorporated 

[[Page 18629]]

in northwestern San Diego County. The northern boundary of the Plan 
study area is Marine Corps Base Camp Pendleton; the Pacific Ocean forms 
the western boundary; and unincorporated County of San Diego borders 
most of the study area on the east and south. Unincorporated portions 
of the county, including several areas completely surrounded by 
incorporated cities, are excluded from the study area and will be 
planned by the county under the North County Subarea of the Multiple 
Species Conservation Plan.
    The 118,852-acre Plan study area is largely developed, with 
approximately 30 percent consisting of vacant lands that still support 
natural vegetation communities. The largest blocks of natural 
vegetation occur in northern Escondido, and in the hilly areas of 
southeastern Carlsbad and southwestern San Marcos. Other relatively 
large blocks of habitat occur along the northern boundary of Oceanside, 
and in scattered areas in eastern and central Carlsbad, northern San 
Marcos, and southern Escondido. Otherwise, natural habitats in the Plan 
study area are highly fragmented and occur primarily in small, 
scattered patches surrounded by development or agriculture.
    The goals of the Plan are to:
    1. Maintain the range of natural biological communities and species 
native to the region, and conserve viable populations of endangered, 
threatened, and key sensitive species and their habitats, thereby 
preventing local extirpation or species extinction.
    2. Create greater certainty for economic and urban development by 
identifying where new development should and should not occur, and 
encourage investment by establishing a legal and procedural framework 
that streamlines the permitting process and provides a reliable basis 
for economic decision-making.
    3. Protect the quality of life for local residents by maintaining 
the area's scenic beauty, natural biological diversity, and recreation 
    The Plan proposes a new process for wildlife and habitat 
conservation, and for implementation of the Federal and State of 
California Endangered Species Acts, which relies on existing local 
agency land use review and approval authority. The new process places 
conservation responsibilities on local jurisdictions, based on their 
ability to implement a segment of the Plan for their jurisdiction. 
Implementation of the Plan will occur through individual subarea 
conservation plans prepared for each of the seven participating 
jurisdictions. In exchange for these coordinated conservation plans, 
local jurisdictions will receive from the Service permits for the 
taking of federally-listed species, and unlisted species should they 
become listed, based on their subarea plans and implementing 
agreements. A list of covered animal and plant species that would 
receive take authorization is incorporated in the Plan, including 
species that are federally or state-listed, proposed for listing, 
candidates for listing, or sensitive within the region.
    The lands identified for open space and habitat preservation are 
located within the Focused Planning Area. The Focused Planning Area was 
cooperatively designed by the Association of Governments and the seven 
participating jurisdictions in the Plan study area, in consultation 
with the Service, the California Department of Fish and Game, and the 
Plan Advisory Committee based on biological, ownership, and land use 
criteria. These participants have spent several months developing 
``hard line'' preserves, indicating lands that will be conserved and 
managed for biological resources, and ``soft line'' planning areas, 
within which preserve areas will ultimately be delineated based on 
further data and planning.
    Several objectives were incorporated into the process of designing 
the Focused Planning Area: (1) conserve as much of the biologically 
most important habitat lands remaining in the subregion as possible, in 
a system that minimizes preserve fragmentation and maximizes 
conservation of covered species; (2) maximize the inclusion of public 
lands within the preserve; (3) maximize the inclusion of lands already 
conserved as open space, where appropriate; and (4) maintain individual 
property rights and economic viability for the subregion.
    Although the Association of Governments will prepare the draft 
Statement, the Service will be responsible for its content and scope. 
In addition, the Association of Governments will act as the lead agency 
for the preparation of the Report.
    Environmental documentation will be included in the joint 
Statement/Report for amendments to a variety of planning documents for 
the seven participating jurisdictions. The proposed amendments would 
incorporate the preserve boundaries of the Plan into adopted land use 
plans as described in the individual subarea plans and implementing 
agreements. Actions proposed by these seven cities that will be 
addressed in the joint Statement/Report include, but are not limited 
to, amendments to general plans, local coastal programs, and zoning 
    The Statement/Report will consider the proposed action (issuance of 
a Section 10(a)(1)(B) Endangered Species Act permit for the Plan) and a 
reasonable range of alternatives. Potential alternatives may be derived 
from preserve design scenarios being considered and include a Minimal 
Acquisition Scenario, Enhanced Conservation/Acquisition Scenario, 
Additional Core Gnatcatcher Conservation Scenario, Biological Core and 
Linkage Area Scenario, and No Project (No Preserve) Scenario.
    Environmental review of the Plan will be conducted in accordance 
with the requirements of the 1969 National Environmental Policy Act, as 
amended (42 U.S.C. 4321 et seq.), National Environmental Policy Act 
regulations (40 CFR parts 1500-1508), other appropriate regulations, 
and Service procedures for compliance with those regulations. This 
notice is being furnished in accordance with Section 1501.7 of the 
National Environmental Policy Act to obtain suggestions and information 
from other agencies and the public on the scope of issues to be 
addressed in the joint Statement/Report.
    Comments and participation in the scoping process are solicited. 
The primary purpose of the scoping process is to identify rather than 
to debate the significant issues related to the proposed action. 
Interested persons are encouraged to attend the public scoping meeting 
to identify and discuss issues and alternatives that should be 
addressed in the joint Statement/Report. The proposed agenda for this 
facilitated meeting includes a summary of the proposed action; status 
of and threats to subject species; and tentative issues, concerns, 
opportunities, and alternatives. Additional public meetings will be 
conducted on later dates to provide more opportunities to comment on 
the draft Statement/Report.

    Dated: April 6, 1999.
Elizabeth H. Stevens,
Deputy Manager, California/Nevada Operations Office.
[FR Doc. 99-9381 Filed 4-14-99; 8:45 am]