[Federal Register: September 7, 2001 (Volume 66, Number 174)]
[Page 46809-46811]
From the Federal Register Online via GPO Access [wais.access.gpo.gov]



Fish and Wildlife Service

Preparation of an Environmental Impact Report/Statement for the 
Western Riverside County, CA, Multiple Species Habitat Conservation 

AGENCY: Fish and Wildlife Service, Interior.

SUMMARY: Pursuant to the National Environmental Policy Act, the Fish 
and Wildlife Service (Service) advises the public that we intend to 
gather information necessary to prepare, in coordination with the 
County of Riverside, California (County), a joint Environmental Impact 
Report/Environmental Impact Statement (EIR/EIS) on the Western 
Riverside Multiple Species Habitat Conservation Plan (MSHCP). The 
County and other jurisdictions intend to request Endangered Species Act 
permits for up to 164 covered species including federally threatened or 
endangered species and unlisted species that may become listed during 
the term of the permit. The permit is needed to authorize take of 
listed species (including harm, injury and harassment) during urban and 
rural development in the approximately 1.26 million-acre (1,967 square-
mile) study area in western Riverside County.
    The Service is furnishing this notice to: (1) Advise other Federal 
and State agencies, affected Tribes, and the public of our intentions; 
(2) announce the initiation of a 30-day public scoping period; and (3) 
obtain suggestions and information on the scope of issues to be 
included in the EIR/EIS.

DATES: We will accept written comments until October 9, 2001.

ADDRESSES: Send comments to Mr. James Bartel, Field Supervisor, U.S. 
Fish and Wildlife Service, Carlsbad Field Office, 3720 Loker Avenue 
West, Carlsbad, CA 92008; facsimile (760) 431-9618. Information, 
comments and/or questions related to the preparation of the EIR and the 
California Environmental Quality Act process should be submitted to Ms. 
Kristi Lovelady; P.O. Box 1605; 4080 Lemon Street, 7th Floor; 
Riverside, CA 92502; facsimile (909) 955-6879.

FOR FURTHER INFORMATION CONTACT: Background information pertaining to 
the MSHCP may be found in the Conservation Information section of the 
following web page http:/www.rcip.org/library.htm. For additional 
information please contact Mr. Jeff Newman, U.S. Fish and Wildlife 
Service, telephone (760) 431-9440 [see ADDRESSES for Carlsbad Field 
Office]; or Ms. Kristi Lovelady, County of Riverside, telephone (909) 
955-6742 [see ADDRESSES].



    Section 9 of the Endangered Species Act of 1973, as amended, and 
Federal regulation prohibit the ``taking'' of a species listed as 
endangered or threatened. The term ``take'' means to harass, harm, 
pursue, hunt, shoot, wound, kill, capture, or collect listed wildlife, 
or attempt to engage in such conduct. Harm includes habitat 
modification that kills or injures wildlife by significantly impairing 
essential behavioral patterns, including breeding, feeding, or 
sheltering. Under limited circumstances, the Service may issue permits 
for take of listed species that is incidental to, and not the purpose 
of, otherwise lawful activities. Regulations governing permits for 
threatened and endangered species are found in 50 CFR 17.32 and 50 CFR 
    We anticipate that the County and other jurisdictions will request 
Endangered Species Act permits for up to 164 covered species, including 
26 federally threatened or endangered species, and 138 unlisted species 
that may become listed during the term of the permit. The permits are 
needed to authorize take of listed species (including harm, injury and 
harassment) during urban and rural development in rapidly growing 
western Riverside County.
    In the year 2020, the Southern California Association of 
Governments estimates that Riverside County will be home to 
approximately 2.8 million people, who will occupy approximately 918,000 
dwelling units. This represents a doubling of the County's present 
population and housing stock. Another study by the California 
Department of Finance estimates that the County will continue to grow 
to 3.5 million people by 2030 and 4.5 million people by 2040. These 
residents will be located within 24 incorporated cities, as well as 
within numerous unincorporated areas.
    The crush of the coming population boom and the challenge of 
balancing the associated housing, transportation, and economic needs of 
existing and future populations with limited natural resources and the 
sensitivity of the natural environment required Riverside County to 
develop a unique planning model. This model, known as the Riverside 
County Integrated Project, consists of three integrated regional 
planning efforts to determine future

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land use, transportation, and conservation needs for the County. The 
goals of the effort are three-fold:
    1. Update the County's General Plan to describe anticipated future 
growth over the long term. The General Plan is meant to express the 
community's goals with respect to both the man-made and natural 
environments, and set forth the policies and implementation measures 
needed to achieve those goals for the welfare of those who live, work, 
and do business in the County. The County's General Plan is being 
prepared and integrated with the MSHCP. The County is preparing an EIR 
to address the environmental impacts of the implementation of the 
County's proposed General Plan.
    2. Identify transportation corridors to meet the County's future 
transportation needs through the Community Environmental and 
Transportation Acceptability Program (CETAP). The CETAP transportation 
program is a multi-modal planning effort that considers not only 
highway options, but also looks at transit and other forms of travel 
demand management and goods movement. The MSHCP is expected to address 
the growth facilitating effects of the CETAP corridors and to 
facilitate requisite environmental clearances for such corridors. 
Riverside County and the Federal Highway Administration (lead agency 
for the National Environmental Policy Act) are also preparing two EIR/
EISs to address the environmental impacts of the proposed CETAP 
    3. Create a MSHCP for the western portion of the County, and 
integrate ongoing preparation of the Coachella Valley Multi-Species 
Habitat Conservation Plan into the fabric of comprehensive planning for 
the County. The western Riverside County MSHCP, which is the subject of 
this notice, will identify activities resulting in the incidental take 
of covered species and those actions necessary to conserve these 
species within a regional reserve system.

Proposed Action and Alternatives To Be Evaluated

    In anticipation of receiving permit applications from the County 
and other jurisdictions, the Service will prepare a joint EIR/EIS with 
the County, lead agency for the MSHCP. The Service's proposed action is 
to consider approval of the MSHCP and issuance of incidental take 
permits to the County and other jurisdictions.
    The County's proposed MSHCP will be a comprehensive plan that seeks 
to conserve up to 164 species within a reserve system of approximately 
510,000 acres pursuant to State and Federal endangered species laws. 
The MSHCP would establish a reserve system, with a focus on conserving 
species and the habitats upon which they depend, through conservation 
and management. The MSHCP will describe strategies to conserve 
federally listed and unlisted species and their habitats identified for 
inclusion and management, while allowing incidental take of endangered 
and threatened species associated with development. Development may 
include residential, commercial, industrial, and recreational 
development; public infrastructure such as roads and utilities; and 
maintenance of public facilities. This plan is intended to allow the 
County and other participating jurisdictions to retain local control 
over land use decisions, provide for critical public infrastructure 
projects, and sustain economic growth.
    The EIR/EIS for the MSHCP will assist the Service during its 
decision making process by enabling us to analyze the environmental 
consequences of the proposed action and a full array of alternatives 
identified during preparation of the MSHCP. Although specific 
alternatives have not been prepared for public discussion, the range of 
alternatives preliminarily identified for consideration include:
    1. The No Action/No Project alternative. Conservation would rely on 
existing or future amended General Plans, growth management programs, 
habitat management efforts, and continuing project-by-project review 
and permitting pursuant to the National Environmental Policy Act and 
sections 7 and 10 of the Endangered Species Act;
    2. An alternative for enhanced management of the existing preserves 
within western Riverside County.
    3. A potential conservation scenario for only currently listed and 
proposed species (i.e., approximately 29 species);
    4. A potential conservation scenario for only currently listed, 
proposed, and certain candidate species (i.e., approximately 36 
species); and
    5. A more-robust, broad-based ecosystem conservation alternative.

Potentially Significant Impacts of Implementation of the MSHCP

    Potentially significant impacts could occur with the implementation 
of the MSHCP alternatives. These could include impacts to biological 
resources, land use and planning (land use development patterns), 
mineral resources, population, housing, economics, and public services 
(fire protection and parks). For all significant impacts, the EIR/EIS 
will identify mitigation measures, where feasible.
    The following issues will be addressed in the EIR/EIS.

Biological Resources

    Incidental take of federally listed species would result from 
activities covered under the MSHCP. The impacts of take will be 
discussed in the EIR/EIS. In addition, the implementation of the MSHCP 
may facilitate development in areas not required for the reserve 
system, which may result in impacts to species in these areas. These 
potential impacts related to biological resources will be further 
addressed in the EIR/EIS.

Land Use and Planning

    Included within the MSHCP planning area are 14 cities, State, 
Federal, and other public jurisdiction lands. Preservation of lands 
within the proposed MSHCP reserve system may conflict with existing 
and/or planned policies with respect to land use. The EIR/EIS will 
address potential MSHCP consistency with local, State and federal land 
use policies.

Mineral Resources

    There may be lands now designated that would not be available for 
mineral resource extraction as a result of the adoption of the MSHCP. 
This will be addressed in the EIR/EIS.

Population, Housing, and Economics

    The adoption of the MSHCP could cause a change in the distribution, 
density, or pattern of growth in western Riverside County. With 
implementation of the MSHCP, growth and development patterns could be 
shifted from the rural residential and suburban areas to urban centers 
and community nodes where there is increased access to infrastructure 
and transportation facilities.

Public Services (Fire Protection and Parks)

    The risk of fire could increase at the habitat edges adjacent to 
existing development. Fire protection impacts will be discussed in the 
EIR/EIS. While the MSHCP will include a public access component to 
define potentially compatible activities such as trails, trail heads, 
and passive recreation, some recreational facilities currently being 
planned by jurisdictions for areas where core reserves and linkage 
areas are proposed, may have to be redesigned or relocated. The 
potential need to relocate a public service or recreational facility 
will be examined in the EIR/EIS.


    The proposed MSHCP reserve may require eliminating, re-aligning, or

[[Page 46811]]

designing specific features to avoid and minimize the incidental take 
of covered species for some planned facilities and programs that 
support various modes of transportation. The EIR/EIS will analyze these 
potential impacts.

Indirect Impacts (Growth Inducement)

    Authorization of take with the implementation of the MSHCP could 
remove an impediment to development. This potential impact will be 
analyzed in the EIR/EIS.


    We invite the public to participate in the scoping process, review 
the draft EIR/EIS, and attend public meetings. The location and time of 
the scoping meetings to be scheduled during the month of September 2001 
will be announced in the local news media. We invite comments from all 
interested parties to ensure that the full range of issues related to 
the permit requests are addressed and that all significant issues are 
    We expect a draft EIR/EIS for the MSHCP to be available for public 
review in Winter 2002. Release of the draft EIR/EIS for public comment 
and the public meetings will be announced in the local news media, as 
these dates are established.

Regulatory Authority

    We will conduct environmental review of the permit applications in 
accordance with the requirements of the National Environmental Policy 
Act of 1969 as amended (42 U.S.C. 4321 et seq.), its implementing 
regulations (40 CFR parts 1500 through 1508), and with other 
appropriate Federal laws and regulations, policies, and procedures of 
the Service for compliance with those regulations.

    Dated: August 23, 2001.
Mary Ellen Mueller,
Acting Deputy Manager, California/Nevada Operations Office, Fish and 
Wildlife Service, Sacramento, California.
[FR Doc. 01-22506 Filed 9-6-01; 8:45 am]