[Federal Register: July 3, 2003 (Volume 68, Number 128)]
[Page 39962-39963]
From the Federal Register Online via GPO Access [wais.access.gpo.gov]



Fish and Wildlife Service

Draft Environmental Assessment/Habitat Conservation Plan and 
Receipt of an Application for an Incidental Take Permit for Struthers 
Ranch, El Paso County, CO

AGENCY: Fish and Wildlife Service, Interior.

ACTION: Notice of availability and receipt of application.


SUMMARY: This notice advises the public that Struthers Ranch 
Development, LLC, (Applicant) has applied to the Fish and Wildlife 
Service (Service) for an incidental take permit pursuant to section 
10(a)(1)(B) of the Endangered Species Act (ESA) of 1973, as amended. 
The proposed permit would authorize the incidental take of the Preble's 
meadow jumping mouse (Zapus hudsonius preblei) (Preble's), federally 
listed as threatened, through loss and modification of its habitat 
associated with construction of a residential and commercial 
development in El Paso County, Colorado. The duration of the permit 
would be 30 years from the date of issuance.
    We announce the receipt of the Applicant's incidental take permit 
application that includes a combined Environmental Assessment/Habitat 
Conservation Plan (EA/HCP) for the Preble's for the Struthers Ranch 
Property. The proposed EA/HCP is available for public review and 
comment. It fully describes the proposed project and the measures the 
Applicant would undertake to minimize and mitigate project impacts to 
the Preble's.
    The Service requests comments on the EA/HCP for the proposed 
issuance of the incidental take permit. We provide this notice pursuant 
to section 10(a) of the ESA and National Environmental Policy Act 
regulations (40 CFR 1506.6). All comments on the EA/HCP and permit 
application will become part of the administrative record and will be 
available to the public.

DATES: Written comments on the permit application and EA/HCP should be 
received on or before September 2, 2003.

ADDRESSES: Comments regarding the permit application and EA/HCP should 
be addressed to Allan Pfister, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, Colorado 
Field Office, 755 Parfet Street, Suite 361, Lakewood, Colorado 80215. 
Comments also may be submitted by facsimile to (303) 275-2371.

FOR FURTHER INFORMATION CONTACT: Ms. Kathleen Linder, Fish and Wildlife 
Biologist, Colorado Field Office, telephone (303) 275-2370.


Document Availability

    Individuals wishing copies of the EA/HCP and associated documents 
for review should immediately contact the above office. Documents also 
will be available for public inspection, by appointment, during normal 
business hours at the above address.


    Section 9 of the ESA and Federal regulation prohibit the ``take'' 
of a species listed as endangered or threatened. Take is defined under 
the ESA, in part, as to kill, harm, or harass a federally-listed 
species. However, the Service may issue permits to authorize 
``incidental take'' of listed species under limited circumstances. 
Incidental take is defined under the ESA as take of a listed species 
that is incidental to, and not the purpose of, the carrying out of an 
otherwise lawful activity under limited circumstances. Regulations 
governing permits for threatened species are promulgated in 50 CFR 
    The Struthers Ranch Property is located along Black Forest Creek on 
the east side of Interstate 25, roughly 5.6 kilometers (3.5 miles) 
southeast of the Town of Monument, in northwestern El Paso County, 
Colorado. The specific legal description for the property is Section 36 
of Township 11 South, Range 67 West (S\1/2\ of SE\1/4\; S\1/2\ of NE\1/
4\ and NW\1/4\ of SE\1/4\; SE\1/4\ of SW\1/4\; and NE\1/4\ of SW\1/4\). 
The project site is 43 hectares (107 acres) with development proposed 
for 27 hectares (67 acres). Of the 27 hectares (67 acres) proposed for 
development, the Applicant, using the Service's definition of Preble's 
habitat, has determined that the proposed project would impact 
approximately 6.6 hectares (16.4 acres) of potential Preble's habitat, 
which includes 0.5 hectare (1.2 acres) of off-site impacts. Of the 6.6 
hectares (16.4 acres) of construction within Preble's habitat, only 1 
hectare (2.5 acres) of wetland vegetation will be impacted because of 
construction of a box culvert crossing over Black Forest Creek, a 
utility easement, and drop structures and rip-

[[Page 39963]]

rap used to stabilize the drainage. Drainage instability has resulted 
in past flood damage to riparian vegetation, which has been exacerbated 
by cattle grazing leading to sparse vegetation in most areas. The 
proposed action proposes to stabilize the drainage and repair this past 
damage through extensive planting and reseeding. Remaining disturbance 
to Preble's habitat on Struthers Ranch would be confined to upland 
grassy areas. The remaining 16.4 hectares (40.3 acres) of Struthers 
Ranch not proposed for construction will remain undeveloped. Of the 
total amount of impacted acreage, 0.5 hectare (1.1 acres) will be 
temporarily disturbed.
    Alternatives considered in addition to the Proposed Action, 
included waiting for the approval of the El Paso County Regional HCP, 
an increased impact alternative, and no action. The draft EA analyzes 
the onsite, off-site, and cumulative impacts of the proposed project 
and all associated development and construction activities and 
mitigation activities on the Preble's, other threatened or endangered 
species, vegetation, wildlife, wetlands, geology/soils, land use, water 
resources, air and water quality, or cultural resources.
    An HCP has been developed as part of the preferred alternative 
which is proposed to offset impacts associated with construction of 
Preble's habitat. The proposed HCP will allow for the incidental take 
of the Preble's by permitting residential and commercial development to 
be constructed in an area that may be periodically used as foraging or 
hibernation habitat. The proposed action has been designed to minimize 
impacts to the riparian vegetation along Black Forest Creek and limits 
development to the highest elevations on the parcel. This will 
facilitate development on the property while minimizing, to the 
greatest extent practicable, impacts to Preble's habitat and waters of 
the United States. In addition, the proposed action includes extensive 
onsite conservation measures, as described in section 6.0 (HCP), to 
repair damage from current cattle grazing practices, poor watershed 
management upstream, and the heavy flood events. This will result in an 
overall improvement in the stability of the drainage, which will, in 
turn, improve vegetation quality and diversity within the onsite 
Preble's habitat.
    Onsite mitigation is planned for approximately 14.4 hectares (35.5 
acres) with varying amounts of restoration, enhancement, and creation 
of onsite Preble's habitat as described in the HCP (see section 6.0). 
This results in a mitigation ratio of 2.168:1 for temporary impacts as 
well as permanent impacts. The mitigation will likely provide a net 
benefit to the Preble's and other wildlife by improving and creating 
new riparian areas, planting of native shrubs and grasses, and 
protecting existing habitat along Black Forest Creek from any future 
    To mitigate impacts that may result from incidental take, the HCP 
provides mitigation for the residential and commercial site by 
protection of the Black Forest Creek corridor onsite and its associated 
riparian areas from all future development. Of the 14.4 hectares (35.5 
acres) of mitigation area, restoration and enhancement will occur on 8 
hectares (20 acres) of upland areas and restoration will occur on 2 
hectares (5 acres) of riparian areas. Restoration and enhancement will 
be achieved through planting and seeding of native woody, herbaceous, 
and grassy species, and a combination of removing grazing pressures and 
noxious weed control. Additionally, limited enhancement will occur on 
3.3 hectares (8.1 acres) of uplands. Limited enhancement will consist 
of weed control and the removal of grazing to encourage existing native 
grass recovery. No seeding or planting will occur in these areas. 
Habitat creation will occur on an additional 1 hectare (2.5 acres) 
including an area proposed for a detention pond in the southwest corner 
of the property located outside of Preble's habitat and within a 
Preble's habitat buffer area currently occupied by ranch house 
outbuildings. Measures will be taken during construction to minimize 
impact to the habitat, including the use of silt fencing to reduce the 
amount of sediment from construction activities that reaches the creek. 
All of the proposed mitigation area is within the boundaries of the 
Struthers Ranch property, all of which is included in the drainage 
basin of Black Forest Creek.
    The 14.4 hectares (35.5 acres) of undeveloped land along Black 
Forest Creek will be maintained as a preservation area with extensive 
conservation measures to restore and enhance vegetation for local 
wildlife use.
    This notice is provided pursuant to section 10(c) of the ESA. We 
will evaluate the permit application, the EA/HCP, and comments 
submitted therein to determine whether the application meets the 
requirements of section 10(a) of the ESA. If it is determined that 
those requirements are met, a permit will be issued for the incidental 
take of the Preble's in conjunction with the residential and commercial 
construction of Struthers Ranch. The final permit decision will be made 
no sooner than 60 days from the date of this notice.

    Dated: June 18, 2003.
Paul E. Gertler,
Acting Regional Director, Region 6.
[FR Doc. 03-16838 Filed 7-2-03; 8:45 am]