[Federal Register: December 1, 2000 (Volume 65, Number 232)]
[Page 75293-75295]
From the Federal Register Online via GPO Access [wais.access.gpo.gov]



Fish and Wildlife Service

Availability of Final Environmental Impact Statement/
Environmental Impact Report for the Proposed Issuance of an Incidental 
Take Permit for the San Joaquin County Multi-Species Habitat 
Conservation and Open Space Plan in California

AGENCY: Fish and Wildlife Service, Interior.

ACTION: Notice of availability of a final environmental impact 
statement/environmental impact report.


SUMMARY: This notice advises the public of the availability of the 
Final Environmental Impact Statement/Environmental Impact Report on the 
application to incidentally take 16 federally listed species and 26 
currently unlisted species should any of them become listed under the 
Endangered Species Act of 1973, as amended (Act), during the life of 
the permit. The San Joaquin Council of Governments (Council of 
Governments) has applied to the Fish and Wildlife Service (Service) for 
a 50-year incidental take permit pursuant to section 10(a)(1)(B) of the 
Act. The Council of Governments has applied for itself and on behalf of 
the cities of Escalon, Lathrop, Lodi, Manteca, Ripon, Stockton, and 
Tracy; San Joaquin County; the East Bay Municipal Utility District; 
California Department of Transportation-District 10 within San Joaquin 
County; San Joaquin Area Flood Control Agency; Stockton East Water 
District; and the South San Joaquin Irrigation District (Applicants). 
This notice is provided pursuant to section 10 of the Act and National 
Environmental Policy Act Regulation (40 CFR 1506.6).

DATES: A Record of Decision and permit decision will occur no sooner 
than January 2, 2001.

ADDRESSES: Copies of the San Joaquin County Multi-Species Habitat 
Conservation and Open Space Plan (Plan), Implementation Agreement, and 
Final Environmental Impact Statement/Environmental Impact Report are 
available for review at the following government offices and libraries:
    Government Offices--Fish and Wildlife Service, Sacramento Fish and 
Wildlife Office, 2800 Cottage Way, Suite W-2605, Sacramento, California 
95825, (916) 414-6600 and San Joaquin Council of Governments, 6 S. El 
Dorado St., Suite 400, Stockton, California 95202, (209) 468-3913. The 
Plan, Implementation Agreement, and Final Environmental Impact 
Statement/Environmental Impact Report are also available at the website 
for the San Joaquin Council of Governments at http://www.sjcog.org.
    Libraries--California State Library, Information and Reference 
Center, 914 Capital Mall, Room 301, Sacramento, California 95814, (916) 
654-0261; Escalon Branch Library, 1540 Second St., Escalon, California 
95320, (209) 838-2478; Tracy Branch Library, 20 E. Eaton Ave., Tracy, 
California 95376, (209) 831-4250; Cesar Chavez Central Library, 605 N. 
El Dorado St., Stockton, California 95202, (209) 937-8415; Fair Oaks 
Branch Library, 2370 E. Main St., Stockton, California 95205, (209) 
937-7700; Lodi Library, 201 West Locust Street, Lodi, California 95240, 
(209) 333-8507; Manteca Branch Library, 320 W. Center St., Manteca, 
California 95336, (209) 825-2380; Ripon Branch Library, 430 W. Main 
St., Ripon, California 95366, (209) 599-3326; Margaret Klausner Troke 
Branch Library, 502 W. Benjamin Holt (at Inglewood), Stockton, 
California 95207, (209) 937-7000; Maya Angelou Southeast Branch 
Library, 2324 Pock Lane, Stockton, California 95205, (209) 937-7700.

FOR FURTHER INFORMATION CONTACT: Ms. Vicki Campbell, Conservation 
Planning Division Chief, Sacramento Fish and Wildlife Office, 
Sacramento, California, at (916) 414-6600.



    Section 9 of the Act and Federal regulation prohibit the ``take'' 
of animal species listed as endangered or threatened. 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 
U.S.C. 1538). However, under limited circumstances, the Service, may 
issue permits to authorize ``incidental take'' of listed animal 
species. ``Incidental take'' is defined by the Act as take that is 
incidental to, and not the purpose of, the carrying out of an otherwise 
lawful activity. Regulations governing permits for threatened and 
endangered species, respectively, are at 50 CFR 17.22, 17.23, and 
    The Applicants seek an incidental take permit for the following 
federally listed species: threatened Aleutian Canada goose (Branta 
canadensis leucopareia), giant garter snake (Thamnophis gigas), 
California red-legged frog (Rana aurora draytonii), delta smelt 
(Hypomesus transpacificus), Sacramento splittail (Pogonichthys 
macrolepidotus), vernal pool fairy shrimp (Branchinecta lynchi), valley 
elderberry longhorn beetle (Desmocerus californicus dimorphus), fleshy 
owl's-clover (Castilleja campestris ssp. succulenta), and endangered 
San Joaquin kit fox (Vulpes macrotis mutica), Conservancy fairy shrimp 
(Branchinecta conservatio), longhorn fairy shrimp (Branchinecta 
longiantenna), vernal pool tadpole shrimp (Lepidurus packardi), 
riparian woodrat (Neotoma fucipes riparia), riparian brush rabbit 
(Sylvilagus bachmani riparius), large-flowered fiddleneck (Amsinckia 
grandiflora), and Greene's tuctoria (Tuctoria greenei). This take would 
be incidental to the

[[Page 75294]]

applicants' conversion of open space to non-open space uses within the 
900,000+ acre planning area in San Joaquin County (County) in 
California. The proposed permit also would authorize future incidental 
take of 26 species that are not currently federally listed, should any 
of them become listed under the Act during the life of the permit. The 
26 currently unlisted species include 13 plant species, 3 amphibian 
species, 1 reptile species, and 9 bird species. The Plan erroneously 
identifies the mountain plover (Charadrius montanus) as a federally-
listed threatened species. However, the status of this species is still 
proposed for listing as threatened. This error in the Plan does not 
change or alter coverage for the mountain plover; incidental take for 
this species would be authorized should the species become listed under 
the Act during the life of the permit.
    In the Plan, the applicants have proposed the conversion of 
approximately 109,302 acres from open space to non-open space uses 
throughout the life of the permit, primarily by activities already 
addressed in adopted plans of the local cities and County. These 
activities include residential, commercial, and industrial development; 
aggregate mining; construction and maintenance of transportation 
facilities, public utilities, schools, and parks and trails; minor 
dredging, non-federal flood control and irrigation district projects; 
agricultural conversions of vernal pool grasslands; managing reserves; 
and other anticipated projects. A more detailed description of covered 
activities is provided in the Plan.
    The Plan classifies the County's land uses into four general 
categories: Natural Lands, Agricultural Lands, Multi-Purpose Open 
Space, and Urban Lands. Habitat preservation and/or creation will be 
required to mitigate for loss of Natural and Agricultural Lands. For 
Agricultural Land (e.g., row and field crops), 1 acre will be preserved 
for each acre impacted. For Natural Lands, mitigation varies according 
to habitat type: (a) For non-wetland habitat (e.g., grasslands, oak 
woodlands, scrub), 3 acres will be preserved for each acre lost; (b) 
for vernal pools in the designated ``Vernal Pool Zone'', 2 acres will 
be preserved and 1 acre will be created for each acre lost; and (c) for 
wetlands other than vernal pools (e.g., channel islands, riparian 
creeks, sloughs), each acre lost will be mitigated through 3 acres of 
preservation, at least 1 acre of which will be created. Up to 71,837 
acres of Natural and Agricultural Lands could be converted under the 
plan, requiring approximately 100,241 acres of habitat preservation 
and/or creation. Additionally, up to 37,465 acres of Multi-Purpose Open 
Space are expected to be converted, requiring mitigation in the form of 
fee payments to help finance enhancement, management, and 
administration costs associated with the preserve system. The amount of 
land that will actually be converted during the life of the permit is 
unknown, but maximum acreage limits have been set based on existing 
local land use plans.
    An additional 600 acres will be preserved under the Plan to 
compensate for potential impacts to covered species which stray from 
preserve lands onto neighboring lands. At the election of landowners 
within 0.5 mile of preserve land, agricultural and aggregate mining 
activities will receive incidental take authorization for covered 
species, except for foraging Swainson's hawks, that become established 
on the property after the adjacent land has been preserved. For 
foraging Swainson's hawks, landowners within 10 miles of established 
preserves may receive neighboring land protections at their discretion. 
Exceptions to this coverage and other details regarding these 
neighboring land protections are provided in the Plan.
    Preservation is anticipated to be achieved primarily through the 
purchase of conservation easements (approximately 90 percent) with some 
purchase of lands in fee title (approximately 10 percent). Conservation 
easements would stress the preservation of existing agricultural 
practices which are deemed compatible with the conservation of the 
covered species. It is anticipated that about 100,841 acres of Preserve 
will be acquired (about 100,241 to mitigate loss of Natural and 
Agricultural Lands and 600 acres to mitigate for neighboring land 
protections) during the 50-year term of the Plan. These lands would be 
preserved and managed for wildlife values in perpetuity.
    The Plan includes measures to avoid and minimize incidental take 
for each of the covered species, emphasizing project design 
modifications to protect both habitats and species individuals. A 
monitoring and reporting plan will gauge the Plan's success, based on 
biological success criteria, and ensure that compensation keeps pace 
with open space conversions. The Plan also includes adaptive management 
which allows for changes in the conservation program if the biological 
success criteria are not met, or new information becomes available to 
improve the efficacy of the Plan's conservation strategy.
    In addition to incidental take avoidance measures, the Plan 
includes requirements for conserving corridors for the San Joaquin kit 
fox and for avoiding the creation of linear barriers to species 
dispersal. The Plan also establishes limits on Natural Land conversions 
and for particular species covered by the Plan. Details of avoidance 
and minimization measures, and preserve design and management are 
presented in the Plan.
    The Plan would be implemented by a Joint Powers Authority which 
would be advised by a Technical Advisory Committee including 
representatives from the Fish and Wildlife Service, California 
Department of Fish and Game, and other agencies or parties. Additional 
assistance will be provided to the Joint Powers Authority by 
conservation, agricultural, and business interests, and other 
stakeholders in the County.
    Funding for the Plan is anticipated to be provided by multiple 
sources including development fees (to fund 67 percent of the Plan); 
local, state and Federal funding sources (16 percent of Plan funding); 
Plan-generated income (e.g., through lease revenues--approximately 5 
percent of funding); conservation bank revenues (2 percent); and 
revolving funds (10 percent).
    The Council of Governments has requested incidental take 
authorization from the California Department of Fish and Game for a 
total of 97 species protected under the California Endangered Species 
Act and/or California Environmental Quality Act. The California 
Department of Fish and Game intends to use this Final Environmental 
Impact Statement/Environmental Impact Report and the Plan as a basis 
for issuing state permits for incidental take of state-protected 
species resulting from implementation of the Plan.
    In October 1, 1999, a notice was published in the Federal Register 
(64 FR 53401) announcing that the Service had received an application 
for an incidental take permit from the Council of Governments for 
implementation of the Plan and the availability of a Draft 
Environmental Impact Statement/Environmental Impact Report for the 
application. The Draft Environmental Impact Statement/Environmental 
Impact Report analyzed the potential environmental impacts that may 
result from the Federal action of authorizing incidental take 
anticipated to occur with implementation of the Plan, and identified 
various alternatives. Twelve comment letters were received on the

[[Page 75295]]

Draft Environmental Impact Statement/Environmental Impact Report. A 
response to each comment received in these letters has been included in 
Final Environmental Impact Statement/Environmental Impact Report.
    The Draft Environmental Impact Statement/Environmental Impact 
Report considered five alternatives, including the Proposed Action and 
the No-Action Alternatives. Under the No-Action Alternative, landowners 
within the County would continue to apply for individual incidental 
take permits on a case-by-case basis, resulting in piecemeal planning 
that would establish isolated patches of mitigation land scattered 
throughout the County. This could result in cumulatively significant 
adverse impacts to those species which would benefit from larger tracts 
of interconnected habitats.
    Under the Reduced Land Acquisition/Increased Preserve Enhancement 
Alternative, mitigation would focus on habitat enhancement which could 
interfere substantially with agricultural activities, creating 
significant adverse impact to agricultural productivity in the County. 
This alternative would have questionable benefits to the covered 
species because habitat enhancement is unpredictable and may be 
    Under the No Wetlands Coverage Alternative, landowners within the 
County would continue to apply for individual permits pursuant to the 
Federal Clean Water Act, which is expected to result in piecemeal 
planning. Mitigation lands would likely consist of smaller and more 
widely scattered habitat blocks than would occur with the Proposed 
Action, resulting in cumulatively significant adverse impacts to those 
wetland-dependent species which would benefit from larger tracts of 
interconnected habitats.
    Under the Preserve Location Outside of the County Alternative, 
significantly less habitat within the County would be preserved than 
with the Proposed Action, adversely impacting some covered species by 
creating gaps in the species' range and potentially disrupting the 
genetic integrity of some populations. This alternative could also 
adversely impact relatively immobile species that are unable to 
relocate to distant newly created habitats.
    The analysis provided in the Final Environmental Impact Statement/
Environmental Impact Report is intended to accomplish the following: 
inform the public of the proposed action; address public comments 
received on the Draft Environmental Impact Statement/Environmental 
Impact Report; disclose the direct, indirect, and cumulative 
environmental effects of the proposed actions; and indicate any 
irreversible commitment of resources that would result from 
implementation of the proposed action.

    Dated: November 20, 2000.
John Engbring,
Acting Deputy Manager, Region 1, California/Nevada Operations Office, 
Sacramento, California.
[FR Doc. 00-30080 Filed 11-30-00; 8:45 am]