[Federal Register: June 21, 2000 (Volume 65, Number 120)]
[Page 38568-38570]
From the Federal Register Online via GPO Access [wais.access.gpo.gov]



Fish and Wildlife Service

Receipt of Application for an Incidental Take Permit for Proposed 
Road Construction and Multi-Family Housing Development by the 
Litchfield Company, Georgetown County, South Carolina

AGENCY: Fish and Wildlife Service, Interior

ACTION: Notice.


SUMMARY: The Litchfield Company (Applicant) requests an incidental take 
permit (Permit) pursuant to section 10(a)(1)(B) of the Endangered 
Species Act of 1973 (U.S.C. 1531 et seq.), as amended (Act). The 
Applicant anticipates taking one breeding group of red-cockaded 
woodpeckers (Picoides borealis) (RCW) incidental to (1) construction 
activities for a multi-family housing development and (2) road building 
and usage during the RCW nesting season. The project site is about 
3,600 feet west-northwest of the intersection of Highway 17 and 
Willbrook Boulevard at Litchfield Beach, Georgetown County, South 
Carolina. Foraging habitat will be impacted, but will not fall below 
recommended minimums as outlined in the Service's Guidelines for RCW 
Management on Private Lands. No cavity trees will be removed. However, 
construction activities (residential and road) and road usage within 
400 feet of active cavity trees may harass the RCWs. A more detailed 
description of the mitigation and minimization measures to address the 
effects of the Project to

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the protected species are outlined in the Applicant's Habitat 
Conservation Plan (Plan), and in the SUPPLEMENTARY INFORMATION section 
below. The Service has determined that the Applicant's proposal, 
including the proposed mitigation and minimization measures, will 
individually and cumulatively have a minor or negligible effect on the 
species covered in the Plan. Therefore, the Permit is a ``low effect'' 
project and would qualify as a categorical exclusion under the National 
Environmental Policy Act (NEPA), as provided by the Department of 
Interior Manual (516 DM2, Appendix 1 and 516 DM 6, Appendix 1).
    The Service also announces the availability of the Plan and our 
determination of Categorical Exclusion for the incidental take 
application. Copies of the Plan and Service supporting documents may be 
obtained by making a request to the Regional Office (see ADDRESSES). 
Requests must be in writing to be processed. This notice is provided 
pursuant to Section 10 of the Endangered Species Act and NEPA 
regulations (40 CFR 1506.6).
    The Service specifically requests information, views, and opinions 
from the public via this Notice on the Federal action. Further, the 
Service specifically solicits information regarding the adequacy of the 
Plan as measured against the Service's Permit issuance criteria found 
in 50 CFR Parts 13 and 17.
    If you wish to comment, you may submit comments by any one of 
several methods. 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 submit comments over the internet as an 
ASCII file avoiding the use of special characters and any form of 
encryption. Please also include your name and return address in your 
internet message. If you do not receive a confirmation from the Service 
that we have received your internet message, contact us directly at 
either telephone number listed below (see FURTHER INFORMATION). 
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.
    Written comments on the permit application, supporting 
documentation, and Plan should be sent to the Service's Regional Office 
(see ADDRESSES) and should be received on or before July 21, 2000.

ADDRESSES: Persons wishing to review the application, Plan, and 
supporting documentation 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, Post Office Box 12559, 
Charleston, South Carolina 29422-2559. Written data or comments 
concerning the application, supporting documention, or Plan should be 
submitted to the Regional Office. Requests for the documentation must 
be in writing to be processed. Comments must be submitted in writing to 
be adequately considered in the Service's decision-making process. 
Please reference permit number TE028745-0 in such comments, or in 
requests of the documents discussed herein.

FOR FURTHER INFORMATION CONTACT: Mr. David Dell, Regional Coordinator, 
(see ADDRESSES above), telephone: 404/679-7313, facsimile: 404/679-
7081; or Ms. Lori Duncan, Fish and Wildlife Biologist, Charleston Field 
Office, Charleston, South Carolina (see ADDRESSES above), telephone: 
843/727-4707 ext. 21.

SUPPLEMENTARY INFORMATION: The RCW is a territorial, non-migratory 
cooperative breeding bird species. RCWs live in social units called 
groups which generally consist of a breeding pair, the current year's 
offspring, and one or more helpers (normally adult male offspring of 
the breeding pair from previous years). Groups maintain year-round 
territories near their roost and nest trees. The RCW is unique among 
the North American woodpeckers in that it is the only woodpecker that 
excavates its roost and nest cavities in living pine trees. Each group 
member has its own cavity, although there may be multiple cavities in a 
single pine tree. The aggregate of cavity trees is called a cluster. 
RCWs forage almost exclusively on pine trees and they generally prefer 
pines greater than 10 inches diameter at breast height. Foraging 
habitat is contiguous with the cluster. The number of acres required to 
supply adequate foraging habitat depends on the quantity and quality of 
the pine stems available. The RCW is endemic to the pine forests of the 
Southeastern United States and was once widely distributed across 16 
States. The species evolved in a mature fire-maintained ecosystem. The 
RCW has declined primarily due to the conversion of mature pine forests 
to young pine plantations, agricultural fields, and residential and 
commercial developments, and to hardwood encroachment in existing pine 
forests due to fire suppression. The species is still widely 
distributed (presently occurs in 13 southeastern States), but remaining 
populations are highly fragmented and isolated. Presently, the largest 
known populations occur on federally owned lands such as military 
installations and national forests.
    In South Carolina, there are an estimated 1,000 active RCW 
clusters; 50 percent are on Federal lands, 10 percent are on State 
lands, and 40 percent are on private lands (pers. com. S. Lohr, SCDNR).
    There has not been a complete inventory of RCWs in South Carolina 
so it is difficult to precisely assess the species' overall status in 
the State. However, the known populations on public lands are regularly 
monitored and generally considered stable. While several new active RCW 
clusters have been discovered on private lands over the past few years, 
many previously documented RCW clusters have been lost. It is expected 
that the RCW population on private lands in South Carolina will 
continue to decline, especially those from small tracts isolated from 
other RCW populations.
    An initial survey of the Applicant's property was conducted in May 
and June, 1997. It revealed 2 RCW clusters in the vicinity (cluster 3 
and 4). Cluster 3 has a total of 22 cavity trees, 11 of which are on 
Willbrook Plantation, owned by the Applicant, 4 of these are active. 
The remaining Cluster 3 cavity trees are on adjacent property. All of 
the cavity trees for Cluster 4 are on adjacent property, but some 
foraging habitat responsibility lies with Applicant. The Applicant will 
also provide a small amount of foraging habitat for a third cluster 
north of Sandy Island Road. The breeding pair produced no offspring in 
1998 and one male offspring in 1999. The nearest known RCWs are about 5

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groups on the adjacent property to the north owned by Brookgreen 
Gardens. The next closest known active clusters are on Sandy Island 
(about 39 groups), about 2 miles northwest and on Prince George 
Plantation, about 2 miles south (mitigation site) (2 groups).
    The Service worked with the Applicant in the design of the 
minimization and mitigation measures. To minimize impacts to the RCW 
from the proposed development, the Applicant will incorporate the 
following measures in the project:
    1. The Applicant agrees to allow Fish and Wildlife Service and 
South Carolina Department of Natural Resources personnel to enter the 
property for general purposes.
    2. The Applicant will conduct monitoring activities for a period of 
5 years.
    3. The Applicant will provide adequate foraging habitat for Cluster 
#3 (based on the Private Lands Guidelines) and a percentage of the 
foraging habitat for two additional clusters on adjacent property.
    4. The Applicant will place restrictive covenants on property 
within the development to prevent the planting of hardwoods, and to 
maintain the landscape as RCW foraging habitat.
    5. The Applicant will allow for the installation of artificial 
cavities in the common areas of the proposed development.
    To mitigate for the groups to be taken, the applicant will do the 
    1. The Applicant will purchase credit for a breeding pair from 
Prince George Plantation. They have provisioned three recruitment 
clusters and implemented habitat improvement activities to increase 
their safe harbor baseline by one group.
    The Service has therefore determined that approval of the Plan 
qualifies as a categorical exclusion under NEPA, as provided by the 
Department of the Interior Manual (516 DM 2, Appendix 1 and 516 DM 6, 
Appendix 1). No further NEPA determination will therefore be prepared.
    The Service will evaluate the Plan and comments submitted thereon 
to determine whether the application meets the requirements of Section 
10(a) of the Act. If it is determined that those requirements are met, 
the Permit will be issued for the incidental take of RCWs on the 
applicant's project site. The Service will also evaluate whether the 
issuance of a section 10(a)(1)(B) Permit 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 

    Dated: June 15, 2000.
H. Dale Hall,
Acting Regional Director.
[FR Doc. 00-15580 Filed 6-20-00; 8:45 am]