[Federal Register: November 15, 2002 (Volume 67, Number 221)]
[Page 69236-69238]
From the Federal Register Online via GPO Access [wais.access.gpo.gov]



Fish and Wildlife Service

Notice of Availability of a Draft Environmental Impact Statement/ 
Environmental Impact Report and Receipt of an Application for an 
Incidental Take Permit for the Western Riverside County Multiple 
Species Habitat Conservation Plan

AGENCY: Fish and Wildlife Service, Department of the Interior.

ACTION: Notice of Availability; Receipt of Application.


SUMMARY: The County of Riverside (County), Riverside County Flood 
Control and Water Conservation District, Riverside County 
Transportation Commission, Riverside

[[Page 69237]]

County Parks and Open Space District, Riverside County Waste 
Department, California Department of Transportation, California 
Department of Parks and Recreation, and 14 western Riverside County 
cities (Applicants) have applied to the U.S. 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 (Act). The Service is 
requesting public comment on the Draft Multiple Species Habitat 
Conservation Plan (MSHCP) and draft Implementing Agreement. The 
Applicants seek a permit to authorize incidental take of 146 species, 
including unlisted species that may become listed during the term of 
the permit. An incidental take permit is required to authorize take of 
listed species during urban and rural development in the approximately 
1.26 million-acre (1,967 square-mile) Plan Area in western Riverside 
County. The proposed term of the permit is 75 years.
    A Draft Environmental Impact Statement, which is the Federal 
portion of the Draft Environmental Impact Statement/Environmental 
Impact Report (EIS/EIR), has been prepared jointly by the Service and 
the County of Riverside to analyze the impacts of the MSHCP and is also 
available for public review. The analyses provided in the Draft EIS/EIR 
are intended to inform the public of our proposed action, alternatives, 
and associated impacts; address public comments received during the 
scoping period for the Draft EIS/EIR; disclose the direct, indirect, 
and cumulative environmental effects of the proposed action and each of 
the alternatives; and indicate any irreversible commitment of resources 
that would result from implementation of the proposed action.

DATES: Written comments should be received on or before January 14, 

ADDRESSES: Send comments to Mr. Jim Bartel, Field Supervisor, U.S. Fish 
and Wildlife Service, 2730 Loker Avenue West, Carlsbad, California 
92008. You also may submit comments by facsimile to (760) 431-9618. 
Information, comments and/or questions related to the EIR and the 
California Environmental Quality Act should be submitted to Ms. Kristi 
Lovelady, Riverside County Transportation Land Management Agency, PO 
Box 1605, 4080 Lemon Street--7th Floor, Riverside CA 92502; facsimile 
(909) 955-6879.

FOR FURTHER INFORMATION CONTACT: Ms. Karen Evans, Assistant Field 
Supervisor, at the Carlsbad Fish and Wildlife Office above; telephone 
(760) 431-9440.


Availability of Documents

    Documents available for public review, includes the applications, 
the Public Review Draft MSHCP Volumes I (the proposed plan and 
mitigation) and II (the MSHCP reference document), and the accompanying 
Implementing Agreement, and the Draft EIS/EIR.
    Individuals wishing copies of the documents should contact the 
Service by telephone at (760) 431-9440 or by letter to the Carlsbad 
Fish and Wildlife Office. Copies of the MSHCP, Draft EIS/EIR, and Draft 
Implementing Agreement also are available for public inspection, by 
appointment, during regular business hours, at the Carlsbad Fish and 
Wildlife Office (see ADDRESSES). Copies are also available for viewing 
at the Riverside County Administrative Center, 4080 Lemon Street, 7th 
Floor, Riverside, California; at public libraries in each of the 
applicant cities; and on the World Wide Web in the library section at 

Background Information

    Section 9 of the Act and Federal regulation prohibit the ``take'' 
of fish and wildlife species federally listed as endangered or 
threatened. Take of federally listed fish or wildlife is defined under 
the Act to include kill, harm, or harass. Harm includes significant 
habitat modification or degradation that actually kills or injures 
listed wildlife by significantly impairing essential behavioral 
patterns, including breeding, feeding, and sheltering (50 CFR 17.3(c)). 
Under limited circumstances, the Service may issue permits to authorize 
incidental take; i.e., take that is incidental to, and not the purpose 
of, otherwise lawful activity. Regulations governing incidental take 
permits for threatened and endangered species are found in 50 CFR 17.32 
and 17.22, respectively.
    The Applicants seek a permit to cover a total of 146 species, 
including 64 plant species (8 endangered, 3 threatened, and 53 
unlisted); 3 crustacean species (1 endangered, 1 threatened and 1 
unlisted); 2 insect species (both endangered); 2 fish species (1 
threatened and 1 unlisted); 5 amphibian species (2 endangered, 1 
threatened, and 2 unlisted); 12 reptile species (all unlisted); 45 bird 
species (2 endangered, 2 threatened, 1 proposed threatened, 1 candidate 
and 39 unlisted); and 14 mammal species (2 endangered and 12 unlisted). 
Collectively the 146 listed and unlisted species are referred to as 
``Covered Species'' by the MSHCP. The permit would provide take 
authorization for covered animal species identified by the MSHCP as 
``Covered Species Adequately Conserved.'' Currently, the Draft MSHCP 
identifies 128 species as ``Covered Species Adequately Conserved.'' The 
remaining species would be included as ``Covered Species Adequately 
Conserved'' upon completion of the conservation measures identified in 
the Draft MSHCP.
    The MSHCP is intended to protect and sustain viable populations of 
native plant and animal species and their habitats in perpetuity 
through the creation of a preserve system, while accommodating 
continued economic development and quality of life for residents of 
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 14 incorporated cities, as well as 
within numerous unincorporated areas.
    The MSHCP is one part of the Riverside County Integrated Project 
(RCIP) intended to integrate and provide for future land use, 
transportation and conservation needs in Riverside County. The MSHCP 
plan area encompasses 1.2 million acres in western Riverside County and 
includes the following fourteen incorporated cities: Banning, Beaumont, 
Calimesa, Canyon Lake, Corona, Hemet, Lake Elsinore, Moreno Valley, 
Murietta, Norco, Perris, Riverside, San Jacinto, and Temecula. It is 
one of two large, multiple-jurisdictional habitat planning efforts in 
Riverside County, each of which constitutes a ``subregional'' plan 
under the State of California's Natural Community Conservation Planning 
(NCCP) Act of 1991.
    As described in Volumes I and II of the Public Review Draft MSHCP 
and the Draft EIS/EIR, the proposed MSHCP would provide for the 
creation of a preserve system that protects and manages 153,000 acres 
of habitat for the Covered Species, consisting of 97,000 acres 
conserved as the local mitigation component, 6,000 acres conserved as 
mitigation for State Permittee Projects (California Department of 
Transportation and California Department of Parks and Recreation) and 
it is anticipated that the State and Federal Wildlife Agencies would 
provide an additional 50,000 acres to

[[Page 69238]]

help achieve conservation identified in the MSHCP. The financing plan 
for the local portion of the reserve assembly of 97,000 acres includes 
a mitigation fee, tipping fee for use of waste management facilities, 
and other funding sources to conserve 56,000 acres. Conservation of the 
remaining 41,000 acres would accrue through the implementation of 
developer incentives and on-site set asides accomplished through the 
development review process. The proposed 153,000 acre reserve area is 
not specifically identified in the MSHCP. The conservation of 153,000 
acres is anticipated to occur over the first 25 years of the program 
and when completed, must be in a configuration to, and include the 
vegetation communities that, provide for the conservation of covered 
species. To accomplish this, the proposed reserve will be assembled 
pursuant to written criteria that describe a possible design for the 
153,000 acre reserve to be established within an approximately 300,000-
acre area termed the ``Criteria Area.''
    Covered Activities would include, but are not limited to: public 
and private development within the plan area that requires a 
discretionary action by a permittee subject to consistency with MSHCP 
policies, two internal regional transportation facilities, maintenance 
of and safety improvements on existing roads, the Circulation Elements 
of the permittees, maintenance and construction of flood control 
facilities, single family homes on existing legal parcels within the 
Criteria Area, up to 10,000 new acres of agricultural activity within 
the Criteria Area, and compatible uses in the reserve. The MSHCP makes 
a provision for the inclusion of special districts and other non-
permittee entities in the permit with a certificate of inclusion.
    The EIS/EIR considers analyzes four other alternatives in addition 
to the proposed MSHCP Project Alternative described above including: A 
listed, proposed and strong candidate species alternative; A listed and 
proposed species alternative; an existing reserves alternative; and a 
no project alternative.
    The listed, proposed and strong candidate species alternative 
focuses on the conservation of 29 State and/or federally listed species 
and 7 unlisted species. This alternative would conserve approximately 
119,300 acres.
    The listed and proposed species alternative focuses on the 
conservation of 29 State and/or federally listed or proposed species. 
This alternative is approximately 93,800 acres.
    The existing reserves alternative does not provide any new land 
acquisition for conservation purposes, but instead focuses on 
conservation for six State and/or federally listed or candidate species 
and some unlisted species present in existing reserves. Species 
coverage would be dependent upon additional management regimes in the 
existing reserves.

Public Comments

    The Service invites the public to comment on the Draft MSHCP, Draft 
Implementing Agreement, and Draft EIS/EIR during a 60-day public 
comment period beginning the date of this notice. All comments 
received, including names and addresses, will become part of the 
official administrative record and may be made available to the public. 
This notice is provided pursuant to section 10(a) of the Endangered 
Species Act and Service regulations for implementing the National 
Environmental Policy Act of 1969 (40 CFR 1506.6). The Service will 
evaluate the application, associated documents, and comments submitted 
thereon to prepare a Final Environmental Impact Statement. A permit 
decision will be made no sooner than 30 days after the publication of 
the Final Environmental Impact Statement and completion of the Record 
of Decision.

    Dated: November 7, 2002.
Miel R. Corbett,
Acting Deputy Manager, Region 1, California/Nevada Operations Office, 
Sacramento, California.
[FR Doc. 02-28875 Filed 11-14-02; 8:45 am]