[Federal Register: October 6, 2000 (Volume 65, Number 195)]
[Page 59863-59864]
From the Federal Register Online via GPO Access [wais.access.gpo.gov]



Fish and Wildlife Service

Availability of an Environmental Assessment and Receipt of an 
Application for an Incidental Take Permit for the Granite Homes, Inc. 
Development in Riverside County, CA

AGENCY: Fish and Wildlife Service, Interior.

ACTION: Notice of availability and receipt of application.


SUMMARY: Granite Homes, Incorporated (the Applicant) has applied to the 
Fish and Wildlife Service (Service) for an incidental take permit 
pursuant to section 10(a)(1)(B) of the Endangered Species Act of 1973, 
as amended. Granite Homes is a managing member of the Elsinore 98, 
Limited Liability Company. The Service is considering issuance of a 2-
year permit to the Applicant that would authorize take of the 
threatened coastal California gnatcatcher (Polioptila californica 
californica, (gnatcatcher)) incidental to otherwise lawful activities.
    Such take would occur during the construction of 99 homes on a 
previously graded site in the City of Lake Elsinore, in Riverside 
County, California. This project would permanently eliminate 14 acres 
of Riversidean sage scrub habitat, resulting in incidental take of 
three pairs of gnatcatchers. The Applicant proposes to reduce 
deleterious effects from the proposed construction and to conserve 24 
acres of Riversidean sage scrub habitat within an adjacent 80-acre 
parcel of open space to the north of the project site.
    We request comments from the public on the permit application, and 
an Environmental Assessment, both of which are available for review. 
The permit application includes the proposed Habitat Conservation Plan 
(Plan) and an accompanying Implementing Agreement. The Plan describes 
the proposed action and the measures that the Applicant would undertake 
to minimize and mitigate take of the gnatcatcher.

DATES: We must receive your written comments on or before December 5, 

ADDRESSES: Please address written comments to Mr. Ken Berg, Field 
Supervisor, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, 2730, Loker Avenue West, 
Carlsbad, California 92008. You also may send comments by facsimile to 
(760) 431-5902.

Supervisor, at the above address or call (760) 431-9440.


Availability of Documents

    You may obtain copies of these documents for review by contacting 
the above office. Documents also will be available for public 
inspection, by appointment, during normal business hours at the above 
address and at the Lake Elsinore City Library located at 600 West 
Graham Street, Lake Elsinore, California.


    Section 9 of the Endangered Species Act (Act) and Federal 
regulations prohibit the ``take'' of fish or wildlife species listed as 
endangered or threatened. Take of listed fish or wildlife is defined 
under the Act to include ``harass, harm, pursue, hunt, shot, wound, 
kill, trap, capture, or collect, or to attempt to engage in any such 
conduct.'' The Service may, under limited circumstances, issue permits 
to authorize incidental take (i.e. take that is incidental to, and not 
the purpose of, the carrying out of an otherwise lawful activity). 
Regulations governing incidental take permits for threatened and 
endangered species are found in 50 CFR 17.32 and 17.22.
    The Applicant has proposed development of 99 high-density single 
family homes on 61 acres. The planning area is located within the city 
of Lake Elsinore, immediately northeast of Interstate 15 at Railroad 
Canyon Road. Land uses in the area include a graded industrial lot 
immediately adjacent to Interstate 15 to the southwest, a residential 
and light commercial district at Railroad Canyon road to the south and 
southeast, Summerhill Drive to the east, the Tuscany Homes residential 
community to the northeast, and extensive undeveloped foothills to the 

[[Page 59864]]

    Biologists surveyed the project site for the gnatcatcher and other 
biological resources between 1998-2000. Based on the survey results, 
the Service concluded that implementation of the proposed project would 
result in take of three gnatcatcher pairs through the permanent removal 
of 14 acres of Riversidean sage scrub. Indirect effects addressed in 
the Plan and Environmental Assessment include: (1) A reduced dispersal 
corridor of Riversidean sage scrub in the northeast section of the 
project site that connects high gnatcatcher population densities to the 
north with large areas of open space to the south; (2) increased nest 
predation from introduced domestic cats; (3) brown-headed cowbird 
(Molothrus ater) parasitism; (4) increased off-road vehicle use of the 
conserved areas, and (5) increased numbers of predators associated with 
backyard night-lighting and garbage surrounding constructed homes.
    The Applicant proposes to implement the following measures to 
mitigate and minimize take of the gnatcatcher: (1) Purchase 24 acres of 
gnatcatcher-occupied Riversidean sage scrub from an adjacent 80-acre 
conservation parcel to the north that is contiguous with 29 acres 
previously conserved by the Applicant; (2) enhance the reduced 
gnatcatcher dispersal corridor in the northeastern section of the 
project site by removing non-native plants on the back of Lot 187 to 
allow regeneration of sage scrub and by leaving 2 acres on either side 
of this lot undeveloped through a conservation easement; (3) place 
fencing on the rear portion of lots adjacent to conserved areas in 
order to minimize predation by domestic cats; (4) implement a brown-
headed cowbird trapping program if monitoring determines that trapping 
is necessary; (5) place deed restrictions pertaining to pets, lighting, 
and trash disposal on lots adjacent to open space; (5) encourage 
protection of the conserved areas by distributing an educational 
brochure to home buyers; and (6) implement an adaptive management plan 
for the conserved areas. The Applicant proposes to endow the long-term 
management of the 24 acres of Riversidean sage scrub off-site 
mitigation at a cost of $3,211 per acre. The conserved area would be 
managed by the Center for Natural Lands Management as part of a 109-
acre managed open-space area.
    The Environmental Assessment considers the environmental 
consequences of three alternatives including the Proposed Action. The 
Proposed Action consists of the issuance of an incidental take permit 
and implementation of the Plan and its Implementing Agreement, which 
include measures to minimize and mitigate impacts of the project to the 
gnatcatcher. Under the ``No Action'' alternative, the Service would not 
issue a permit. Under this alternative, the Applicant could retain the 
property or sell it to somebody else who may choose to develop it. In 
either case, in the short-term the previously graded Riversidean sage 
scrub habitat onsite would continue to revegetate naturally with a 
mixture of native and non-native plants. This sage scrub habitat would 
continue to be fragmented by intrusions of existing paved streets and 
there would be no mechanism for prohibiting off-road vehicle use and 
illegal dumping of trash on the property. Under the ``Project 
Redesign'' alternative, 55 of the 99 lots would be developed and the 
remaining 44 lots would be conserved. These two alternatives to the 
Proposed Action would result in less habitat value for the gnatcatcher 
than the off-site mitigation and minimization measures under the 
Proposed Action.
    This notice is provided pursuant to section 10(a) of the Endangered 
Species Act and the regulations of the National Environmental Policy 
Act of 1969 (40 CFR 1506.6). All comments that we receive, including 
names and addresses, will become part of the official administrative 
record and may be made available to the public. We will evaluate the 
application, associated documents, and comments submitted thereon to 
determine whether the application meets the requirements of the 
National Environmental Policy Act regulations and section 10(a) of the 
Endangered Species Act. If we determine that those requirements are 
met, we will issue a permit to the Applicant for the incidental take of 
the California gnatcatcher. We will make our final permit decision no 
sooner than 60 days from the date of this notice.

    Dated: September 28, 2000.
Elizabeth H. Stevens,
Deputy Manager, California/Nevada Operations Office, Sacramento, 
[FR Doc. 00-25780 Filed 10-05-00; 8:45 am]