[Federal Register: May 2, 2001 (Volume 66, Number 85)]
[Page 21999-22000]
From the Federal Register Online via GPO Access [wais.access.gpo.gov]

[[Page 21999]]



Fish and Wildlife Service

Availability of an Environmental Assessment and Receipt of an 
Application for an Incidental Take Permit for a Phased Residential 
Development Project, in Lake County, Florida

AGENCY: Fish and Wildlife Service, Interior.

ACTION: Notice.


    Lakewood Development Partnership (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 Lake 
County, Florida, for a period of ten (10) years. The proposed taking is 
incidental to land clearing activities and development on a multi-phase 
project site (Project). The Project contains about 37 acres of occupied 
Florida scrub-jay habitat, and the potential exists for the Project to 
provide about 47 acres of habitat to the eastern indigo snake. A more 
detailed description of the mitigation and minimization measures to 
address the effects of the Project to the Florida scrub-jay and eastern 
indigo snake is provided in the Permittee's HCP, the Service's draft 
Environmental Assessment (EA), and in the SUPPLEMENTARY INFORMATION 
section below.
    The Service also announces the availability of a draft 
environmental assessment (EA) and HCP for the incidental take permit 
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 60 days from the date of this notice. This notice is 
provided pursuant to Section 10 of the Act and NEPA regulations (40 CFR 
    The Service specifically requests information, views, and opinions 
from the public via this Notice on the federal action, including the 
identification of any other aspects of the human environment not 
already identified in the Service's EA. Further, the Service 
specifically solicits information regarding the adequacy of the HCP as 
measured against the Service's ITP 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. Please reference permit number TE038105-0 in such 
comments. 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.

DATES: Written comments on the ITP application, draft EA, and HCP 
should be sent to the Service's Regional Office (see ADDRESSES) and 
should be received on or before July 2, 2001.

ADDRESSES: Persons wishing to review the application, HCP, and draft 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, Ecological Services Field Office, 6620 Southpoint 
Drive, South, Suite 310, Jacksonville, Florida 32216-0192. Written data 
or comments concerning the ITP renewal or HCP should be submitted to 
the Regional Office. Please reference permit number TE038105-0 in 
requests of the documents discussed herein.

Coordinator, (see ADDRESSES above), telephone: 404/679-7313, facsimile: 
404/679-7081; or Mr. Miles A. Meyer, Fish and Wildlife Biologist, 
Jacksonville Field Office, Florida (see ADDRESSES above), telephone: 

SUPPLEMENTARY INFORMATION: The Florida scrub-jay is geographically 
isolated from other subspecies of scrub-jays found in Mexico and the 
Western United States. The Florida scrub-jay is found 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 
three families of Florida scrub-jays (17 individuals) utilize habitat 
associated with the abandoned citrus groves and vegetated edge of the 
Palatlakaha River on the Project site. Construction of the Project's 
infrastructure and residential lots will likely result in death of, or 
injury to, Florida scrub-jays incidental to the carrying out of these 
otherwise lawful activities. Habitat alteration associated with 
property development will reduce the availability of habitat used for 
feeding and shelter.
    Historically, the eastern indigo snake occurred throughout Florida 
and into the coastal plain of Georgia, Alabama, and Mississippi. 
Georgia and Florida currently support the remaining, endemic 
populations of eastern indigo snake. Over most of its range, the 
eastern indigo snake frequents a diversity of habitat types such as 
pine flatwoods, scrubby flatwoods, xeric sandhill communities, tropical 
hardwood hammocks, edges of freshwater marshes, agricultural fields, 
coastal dunes and human altered habitats. Due to its relatively large 
home range, this snake is especially vulnerable to habitat loss, 
degradation, and fragmentation. The wide

[[Page 22000]]

distribution and territory size requirements of the eastern indigo 
snake makes evaluation of status and trends very difficult. Surveys for 
this species on site were negative, however the habitat is suitable. If 
any eastern indigo snakes are present, construction of the Project's 
infrastructure and residential lots may result in their death or injury 
incidental to the carrying out of these otherwise lawful activities.
    The draft EA considers the environmental consequences of two 
alternatives. The no action alternative may result in loss of habitat 
for Florida scrub-jay and eastern indigo snake and exposure of the 
Applicant under Section 9 of the Act. The proposed action alternative 
is issuance of the ITP with on-site mitigation. The on-site 
preservation alternative would restore and preserve 71 acres of 
unoccupied habitat and 10 acres of occupied habitat adjacent to the 
Palatlakaha River. 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. The impacts associated with the proposed project include 27 
acres of permanent impacts associated with infrastructure and lot 
development. To mitigate for the proposed impacts to occupied habitat 
the applicant will restore and preserve habitat within two areas of the 
project site. Approximately 27 acres of unoccupied scrub habitat and 10 
acres of occupied habitat will be enhanced and preserved along the 
Palatlakaha River. Additionally, a 54-acre parcel located west of the 
Palatlakaha River will be restored and preserved as scrub habitat. This 
amount is based on mitigation at a ratio of 3:1 (three acres restored 
for every one acre impacted). Management will be conducted on a regular 
basis by the applicant. After initial habitat restoration of the 81-
acre mitigation area, the property would then be set apart through an 
easement, requiring preservation and management for Florida scrub-jays 
and eastern indigo snakes into perpetuity.
    2. No construction activities would occur within 150 feet of an 
active Florida scrub-jay nest during the nesting season.
    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. An appropriate 
excerpt from the FONSI reflecting the Service's finding on the 
application is provided below:
    Based on the analysis conducted by the Service, it has been 
determined that:
    1. Issuance of an ITP would not have significant effects on the 
human environment in the project area.
    2. The proposed take is incidental to an otherwise lawful activity.
    3. The Applicant has ensured that adequate funding will be provided 
to implement the measures proposed in the submitted HCP.
    4. Other than impacts to endangered and threatened species as 
outlined in the documentation of this decision, the indirect impacts 
which may result from issuance of the ITP are addressed by other 
regulations and statutes under the jurisdiction of other government 
entities. The validity of the Service's ITP is contingent upon the 
Applicant's compliance with the terms of the permit and all other laws 
and regulations under the control of State, local, and other Federal 
governmental entities.
    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: April 19, 2001.
Judy L. Pulliam,
Acting Regional Director.
[FR Doc. 01-10938 Filed 5-1-01; 8:45 am]