[Federal Register: September 1, 1999 (Volume 64, Number 169)]
[Page 47856-47857]
From the Federal Register Online via GPO Access [wais.access.gpo.gov]



Fish and Wildlife Service

Availability of an Environmental Assessment, and Receipt of 
Application for an Incidental Take Permit for a 40.6-Acre Mixed 
Commercial Development Project, in Volusia County, Florida

AGENCY: Fish and Wildlife Service, Interior.

ACTION: Notice.


SUMMARY: Home Depot, U.S.A. of Atlanta, Georgia (Applicant), seeks an 
incidental take permit (ITP) from the Fish and Wildlife Service 
(Service), pursuant to Section 10(a)(1)(B) of the Endangered Species 
Act of 1973 (Act), as amended. The ITP would authorize the take of 
three families of the threatened Florida scrub-jay, Aphelocoma 
coerulescens and the threatened Eastern indigo snake, Drymarchon corais 
couperi, in Volusia County, Florida, for a period of five (5) years. 
The proposed taking is incidental to land clearing activities and 
commercial development on a 40.6-acre project site (Project). The 
Project contains about 21.6 acres of occupied Florida scrub-jay 
habitat, and the potential exists for the entire Project to provide 
habitat to the Eastern indigo snake. A description of the mitigation 
and minimization measures is provided in the Applicant's Habitat 
Conservation Plan (HCP) to address the effects of the Project to the 
protected species and is outlined in the SUPPLEMENTARY INFORMATION 
section below.
    The Service also announces the availability of an environmental 
assessment (EA) and HCP for the incidental take application. Copies of 
the EA and/or HCP may be obtained by making a request to the Regional 
Office (see ADDRESSES). Requests must be in writing to be processed. 
This notice also advises the public that the Service has made a 
preliminary determination that issuing the ITP is not a major Federal 
action significantly affecting the quality of the human environment 
within the meaning of Section 102(2)(C) of the National Environmental 
Policy Act of 1969 (NEPA), as amended. The Finding of No Significant 
Impact (FONSI) is based on information contained in the EA and HCP. The 
final determination will be made no sooner than 30 days from the date 
of this notice. This notice is provided pursuant to Section 10 of the 
Act and NEPA regulations (40 CFR 1506.6). The Service specifically 
requests comment on the appropriateness of the ``No Surprises'' 
assurances should the Service determine that an ITP will be granted and 
based upon the submitted HCP. Although not explicitly stated in the 
HCP, the Service has, since August 1994, announced its intention to 
honor a ``No Surprises'' Policy for applicants seeking ITPs. Copies of 
the Service's ``No Surprises'' Policy may be obtained by making a 
written request to the Regional Office (see ADDRESSES). The Service is 
soliciting public comments and review of the applicability of the ``No 
Surprises'' Policy to this application and HCP.

DATES: Written comments on the permit application, EA, and HCP should 
be sent to the Service's Regional Office (see ADDRESSES) and should be 
received on or before October 1, 1999.

ADDRESSES: Persons wishing to review the application, HCP, and EA may 
obtain a copy by writing the Service's Southeast Regional Office, 
Atlanta, Georgia. 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. Written data or comments concerning 
the application, EA, or HCP should be submitted to the Regional Office. 
Requests for the documentation and comments must be submitted in 
writing to be processed. Please reference permit number TE016169-0 in 
such comments, or in requests for the documents discussed herein.

Coordinator, (see ADDRESSES above), telephone: 404/679-7110; or Mr. Jay 
B. Herrington, Fish and Wildlife Biologist, Jacksonville Field Office, 
(see ADDRESSES above), telephone: 904/232-2580, extension 120.

SUPPLEMENTARY INFORMATION: The Florida scrub-jay is geographically 
isolated from other species of scrub-jays found in Mexico and the 
Western United States. The Florida scrub-jay is found almost 
exclusively in peninsular Florida and is restricted to scrub habitat. 
The total estimated population is between 7,000 and 11,000 individuals. 
Due to habitat loss and degradation throughout the State of Florida, it 
has been estimated that the Florida scrub-jay population has been 
reduced by at least half in the last 100 years. Surveys have indicated 
that one family of Florida scrub-jays inhabit the Project site. 
Construction of the Project's buildings and infrastructure will likely 
result in death of, or injury to, Florida scrub-jay incidental to the 
carrying out of these otherwise lawful activities. Habitat alteration 
associated with property development will reduce the availability of 
feeding, shelter, and nesting habitat.
    The Project site also provides habitat suitable for Eastern indigo 
snakes, although none have been detected there. Due to the secretive 
nature of this species, and the possibility that snakes could enter the 
Project from adjacent undeveloped land, the applicant has requested ITP 
    The EA considers the environmental consequences of three 
alternatives. The no action alternative may result in loss of habitat 
for Florida scrub-jay and

[[Page 47857]]

exposure of the Applicant under Section 9 of the Act. The on-site 
preservation alternative would preserve 8.2 acres of occupied habitat. 
This option would not require an ITP, however, the portion of 
commercially developable property would be reduced from 11 acres to 2.8 
acres. In addition, this option would not provide any management for 
the Florida scrub-jay family currently located on the property. The 
off-site mitigation alternative would provide funds to the National 
Fish and Wildlife Foundation Fund for the Conservation of the Florida 
Scrub-jay to procure suitable Florida scrub-jay habitat in Volusia 
County, Florida to be managed into perpetuity. This off-site mitigation 
would also preserve and manage habitat suitable for Eastern indigo 
snakes to help ensure survival of this species throughout its range. 
The proposed action alternative is issuance of the ITP with off-site 
mitigation. The affirmative conservation measures outlined in the HCP 
to be employed to offset the anticipated level of incidental take to 
the protected species are the following:
    1. To mitigate for the up to 21.6 acres of scrub habitat occupied 
by Florida scrub-jays that would be eliminated on site, and to mitigate 
for the loss of 40.6 acres of potential Eastern indigo snake habitat, 
the applicant will provide funds to the National Fish and Wildlife 
Foundation in the amount of $272,160.00 to be spent for procurement of 
occupied Florida scrub-jay habitat and conservation in Volusia County 
at a later date. This amount is based on mitigation at a ratio of 2:1 
(two acres purchased for every one acre impacted and land costs of 
$5,000 per acre), a $1,000 per acre management endowment, and an 
administrative fee of five percent of the total cost for management of 
the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation Fund for conservation of the 
Florida scrub-jay. Management of mitigation lands in optimum condition 
for Florida scrub-jays is assumed by the Service to provide habitat of 
similar benefit for the Eastern indigo snake. Upon procurement, the 
mitigation land would first be donated to and subsequently managed by a 
holding company. After initial habitat restoration, the property would 
then be conveyed to Volusia County or other acceptable land 
conservation program, along with a conservation easement, requiring 
preservation and management for Florida scrub-jays and Eastern indigo 
snakes into perpetuity.
    2. No clearing of scrub vegetation would occur during the nesting 
season of the Florida scrub jay.
    3. The HCP provides a funding mechanism for these mitigation 
    As stated above, the Service has made a preliminary determination 
that the issuance of the ITP is not a major Federal action 
significantly affecting the quality of the human environment within the 
meaning of Section 102(2)(C) of NEPA. This preliminary information may 
be revised due to public comment received in response to this notice 
and is based on information contained in the EA and HCP.
    The Service will also evaluate whether the issuance of a Section 
10(a)(1)(B) ITP complies with Section 7 of the Act by conducting an 
intra-Service Section 7 consultation. The results of the biological 
opinion, in combination with the above findings, will be used in the 
final analysis to determine whether or not to issue the ITP.

    Dated: August 25, 1999.
Cynthia K. Dohner,
Acting Regional Director.
[FR Doc. 99-22716 Filed 8-31-99; 8:45 am]