[Federal Register: October 29, 2002 (Volume 67, Number 209)]
[Page 65998-65999]
From the Federal Register Online via GPO Access [wais.access.gpo.gov]



Fish and Wildlife Service

Proposed Habitat Conservation Plan for the Northern Spotted Owl, 
Napa County, CA

AGENCY: Fish and Wildlife Service, Interior.

ACTION: Notice of availability.


SUMMARY: The Fish and Wildlife Service (Service) has received an 
application for an incidental take permit from Terra Springs, LLC (the 
``applicant'') for the northern spotted owl (Strix occidentalis 
caurina) pursuant to section 10(a)(1)(B) of the Endangered Species Act 
of 1973, as amended (Act). The applicant addresses the potential for 
``take'' of the threatened northern spotted owl associated with timber 
harvest and conversion of timberlands to vineyards within a 76 acre 
area in Napa County (the ``covered lands''). These activities (the 
``covered activities'') are those associated with conversion of 22 
acres of forest lands to vineyard and with any subsequent removal of 
commercial conifer trees from the remainder of the covered lands. A 
conservation program to minimize and mitigate for the covered 
activities would be implemented as described in the Terra Springs Low 
Effect Habitat Conservation Plan (Plan), which would be implemented by 
the applicant, and which includes management in perpetuity of 41 acres 
of the parcel as nesting/roosting quality habitat for the northern 
spotted owl.
    We request comments on the permit application, the Plan, and on the 
preliminary determination that the Plan qualifies as a ``Low-effect'' 
Habitat Conservation Plan, eligible for a categorical exclusion under 
the National Environmental Policy Act. The basis for this determination 
is discussed in the Environmental Action Statement (EAS), which is also 
available for public review.

DATES: Written comments should be received on or before November 29, 

ADDRESSES: Comments should be addressed to the Project Leader, Fish and 
Wildlife Service, Arcata Fish and Wildlife Office, 1655 Heindon Road, 
Arcata, California 95521. Written comments may be sent by facsimile to 
(707) 822-8411.

FOR FURTHER INFORMATION CONTACT: Ms. Amedee Brickey, Team Leader, 
Habitat Conservation Planning Team, at the Arcata Fish and Wildlife 
Office; telephone: (707) 822-7201.


Availability of Documents

    Individuals wishing copies of the application, Plan, and EAS should 
contact the Service by telephone at (707) 822-7201 or by letter to the 
Arcata Fish and Wildlife Office. Copies of these documents also are 
available for public inspection during regular business hours at the 
Arcata Fish and Wildlife Office.

Background Information

    Section 9 of the Act and Federal regulation prohibit the ``take'' 
of animal species listed as endangered or threatened. Take is defined 
under the Act as 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, carrying out of an otherwise 
lawful activity. Regulations governing permits for threatened species 
and endangered species, respectively, are at 50 CFR 17.32 and 50 CFR 
    The applicant is seeking a permit for take of the threatened 
northern spotted owl (Strix occidentalis caurina) during the life of 
the permit. The duration of the permit is 30 years.
    The Terra Springs LLC site, the covered lands, comprises two 
adjacent parcels, totaling 76 acres, and is located about 4 miles west 
of the city of Saint Helena, on the western edge of the Napa Valley 
between 1,800 and 2,000 feet

[[Page 65999]]

above sea level. The site is located within a fragmented landscape of 
conifer, hardwood, and mixed conifer-hardwood forests; agricultural 
lands including vineyards, orchards, and grazing lands; and scattered 
wineries, residences, and bed and breakfast facilities. The Terra 
Springs LLC property currently includes an existing vineyard, orchard, 
and winery, in addition to approximately 65 acres of forest lands 
dominated by Douglas-fir trees.
    The proposed Terra Springs LLC project includes a Timberland 
Conversion and Timber Harvest Plan prepared under California Forest 
Practices Rules. The project would convert 22 acres of forest to 
vineyard and would also include removal of commercial conifer trees 
from the remaining acres of forest, consistent with providing 41 acres 
of nesting/roosting-quality habitat for northern spotted owls.
    Northern spotted owls have large home ranges and inhabit lands 
containing older forest types, or the ecological equivalent, to meet 
their biological needs. The minimum size of the home range for northern 
spotted owls that meets their biological needs varies from province to 
province. Within the Klamath and Coast Provinces of California (which 
include the proposed Plan area), a 1.3 mile radius area around a nest 
site or activity center is considered representative of the home range 
for the species for management purposes. The Terra Springs LLC site is 
within the home range of one northern spotted owl activity center, site 
number NSO NP033. This activity center is located approximately 1.1 
miles from the Terra Springs site. Thus, forest within the Plan area is 
considered habitat for the owls associated with the activity center.
    The applicant proposes to avoid, minimize, and mitigate the effects 
of the project on the northern spotted owl by implementing the Plan. 
Under the Plan the applicant proposes to manage 41 acres of the 76 
acres property as forested, nesting/roosting habitat for the northern 
spotted owl. The applicant will also place a deed restriction on the 
parcel requiring management of these 41 acres as northern spotted owl 
habitat, in perpetuity. Currently 30 acres of the 41 acres are nesting/
roosting habitat quality. The remaining 11 acres, currently of foraging 
habitat quality, will be managed to develop into the higher quality 
nesting/roosting habitat. In addition to mitigation, the Plan also 
includes measures to minimize take of the northern spotted owl.
    No critical habitat for any listed species occurs on the project 
    The Proposed Action consists of the issuance of an incidental take 
permit and implementation of the Plan, which includes measures to 
avoid, minimize and mitigate impacts of the project on the northern 
spotted owl. Three other alternatives are considered in the Plan. Under 
the No Action Alternative, no permit would be issued. Under the Off-
site Mitigation Alternative, roosting and foraging habitat would be 
purchased and used to replace habitat affected by the proposed 
activities. Under the Higher Intensive Use Alternative, more intensive 
land uses than are currently in place or proposed in the Plan would be 
    The Service has made a preliminary determination that the Plan 
qualifies as a ``low-effect'' plan as defined by its Habitat 
Conservation Planning Handbook (November 1996). Determination of low-
effect Habitat Conservation Plans is based on the following three 
criteria: (1) Implementation of the Plan would result in minor or 
negligible effects on federally listed, proposed, and candidate species 
and their habitats; (2) implementation of the Plan would result in 
minor or negligible effects on other environmental values or resources; 
and (3) impacts of the Plan, considered together with the impacts of 
other past, present and reasonably foreseeable similarly situated 
projects would not result, over time, in cumulative effects to 
environmental values or resources which would be considered 
    Therefore, the Service has preliminarily determined that approval 
of the Plan qualifies as a categorical exclusion under the National 
Environmental Policy Act, as provided by the Department of the Interior 
Manual (516 DM 2, appendix 1 and 516 DM 6, appendix 1). Based upon this 
preliminary determination, we do not intend to prepare further National 
Environmental Policy Act documentation. We will consider public 
comments in making our final determination on whether to prepare such 
additional documentation.
    The Service provides this notice pursuant to section 10(c) of the 
Act. All comments received, including names and addresses, will become 
part of the administrative record and may be made available to the 
public. We will evaluate the permit application, the Plan, and comments 
submitted thereon to determine whether the application meets the 
requirements of section 10(a) of the Act. If the requirements are met, 
we will issue a permit to Terra Springs, LLC for the incidental take of 
the northern spotted owl from conversion of 22 acres of forest lands to 
vineyard and any subsequent removal of commercial conifer trees from 
the remainder of the covered lands. We will make the final permit 
decision no sooner than 30 days from the date of this notice.

    Dated: October 22, 2002.
Miel R. Corbett,
Acting Deputy Manager, Region 1, California/Nevada Operations Office, 
Sacramento, California.
[FR Doc. 02-27424 Filed 10-28-02; 8:45 am]