[Federal Register: December 22, 2003 (Volume 68, Number 245)]
[Page 71129-71131]
From the Federal Register Online via GPO Access [wais.access.gpo.gov]



Fish and Wildlife Service

Availability of an Environmental Assessment and Receipt of an 
Application for an Incidental Take Permit for a Proposed Commercial 
Development in Palm Beach County, FL

AGENCY: Fish and Wildlife Service, Interior.

ACTION: Notice.


    Jupiter Island Development Company (Applicant) requests an 
incidental take permit (Permit) pursuant to section 10(a)(1)(B) of the 
Endangered Species Act of 1973 (U.S.C. 1531 et seq.), as amended (Act). 
The Applicant anticipates taking one family of the threatened Florida 
scrub-jay (Aphelocoma coerulescens) incidental to the clearing of 0.85 
acre of occupied habitat associated with the development of a 
commercial facility. The proposed commercial development would occur in 
section 31, Township 40 South, Range 43 East, in the town of Jupiter, 
Palm Beach County, Florida. A more detailed description of the 
mitigation and minimization measures to address the effects of the 
Project to the protected species are outlined in the Applicant's 
Habitat Conservation Plan (HCP), the Service's Environmental Assessment 
(EA), and in the SUPPLEMENTARY INFORMATION section below.
    The Service also announces the availability of an environmental 
assessment (EA) and HCP for the incidental take 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 1506.6).
    If you wish to comment, you may submit comments by any one of 
several methods. You may mail comments to the Service's Regional Office 
(see ADDRESSES). You may also comment via the Internet to david--

[[Page 71130]]

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 

DATES: Written comments on the permit application, supporting 
documentation, EA and HCP should be sent to the Service's Regional 
Office (see ADDRESSES) and should be received on or before February 20, 

ADDRESSES: Persons wishing to review the application, supporting 
documentation, EA, and HCP, 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, 1339 20th Street, Vero 
Beach, Florida 32960-3559. Written data or comments concerning the 
application, supporting documentation, EA, or HCP should be submitted 
to the Regional Office. Requests for the documentation must be in 
writing to be processed. Comments must be submitted in writing to be 
adequately considered in the Service's decision-making process. Please 
reference permit number TE065793-0 in such comments, or in requests for 
the documents discussed herein.

FOR FURTHER INFORMATION CONTACT: Mr. David Dell, Regional Coordinator, 
(see ADDRESSES above), telephone: (404) 679-7313, facsimile: (404) 679-
7081; or Ms. Sharon Tyson, South Florida Ecological Services Field 
Office (see ADDRESSES above), telephone: (772) 562-3909 extension 324.

SUPPLEMENTARY INFORMATION: The Florida scrub-jay (scrub-jay) is 
geographically isolated from other species of scrub-jays found in 
Mexico and the Western United States. The scrub-jay is found 
exclusively in peninsular Florida and is restricted to xeric uplands 
(predominately in oak dominated scrub). Increasing urban and 
agricultural development have resulted in habitat loss and 
fragmentation which has adversely affected the distribution and numbers 
of scrub-jays. The total estimated population is between 7,000 and 
11,000 individuals.
    The decline in the number and distribution of scrub-jays in 
southeastern Florida has been greater than in most other regions of the 
State. Southeastern Florida has experienced tremendous urban growth in 
the past 50 years and much of commercial and residential development 
has occurred on the dry soils which historically supported scrub-jay 
habitat. Based on existing soils data, much of the historic and current 
scrub-jay habitat of coastal east Florida occurs along a narrow stretch 
of historic sand dunes that are situated on a north-south axis from 
Dade to Flagler County. Much of this area of Florida was settled early 
because few wetlands restricted urban and agricultural development. Due 
to the effects of urban and agricultural development over the past 100 
years, much of the remaining scrub-jay habitat is now relatively small 
and isolated. What remains is largely degraded due to the exclusion of 
fire which is needed to maintain xeric uplands in conditions suitable 
for scrub-jays.
    Scrub-jays using the Project site and adjacent lands are considered 
part of a larger complex of scrub-jays that occupy xeric uplands of 
southeastern Florida. This complex of scrub-jay families ranges from 
about east-central Martin County south to northeastern Palm Beach 
County. The majority of scrub-jays within this complex are found within 
Jonathan Dickinson State Park which is located about eight miles north 
of the Project site. The continued survival of scrub-jays in this area 
may depend on the maintenance of suitable habitat and the restoration 
of unsuitable habitat in northeastern Palm Beach and southeastern 
Martin counties.
    Scrub-jay use of the Project site and adjacent lands has been 
assessed on several occasions. In February 1998, field investigations 
by Fish and Wildlife Service staff determined that one scrub-jay family 
comprising three individual birds used portions of the Project site as 
well as adjacent lands. Systematic surveys conducted by the Applicant 
subsequently found scrub-jays using 0.85 acre of the 1.00-acre Project 
    The Project site represents one of the few remaining undeveloped 
private parcels supporting scrub-jays in northern Palm Beach County. 
Several tracts of public conservation lands are also located in the 
vicinity of the Project site, but much of the remaining landbase has 
been developed for commercial or residential uses. The Project site is 
bounded on two sides by major roadways and on another by commercial 
development. The Project site and surrounding lands have been 
negatively influenced by previous land clearing activities, off-road 
vehicle use, and invasion by exotic species. Due to the proximity of 
the Project site to existing commercial development and urban 
infrastructure, fire has been actively excluded because of safety 
concerns. As a result, the condition of the xeric habitat within the 
Project site is degraded; periodic fire or land management practices 
that mimic fire are required to maintain habitat conditions suitable 
for the scrub-jay.
    Land clearing in preparation for commercial construction will 
destroy habitat and result in death of, or injury to, scrub-jays, 
incidental to the carrying out of these otherwise lawful activities. 
Habitat alteration associated with the proposed commercial development 
will reduce the availability of feeding, nesting, and sheltering 
habitat for scrub-jays.
    The Applicant's HCP and the Service's EA describes the following 
minimization and mitigation strategy to be employed by the Applicant to 
offset the impacts of the Project to the scrub-jay:
    [sbull] The Applicant agrees to contribute $95,978 to the Florida 
Scrub-jay Conservation Fund for use in conservation of this species.
    [sbull] The Applicant agrees to avoid land clearing activities 
during the scrub-jay nesting season.
    The EA considers the environmental consequences of one action 
alternative which would result in issuance of the Permit. The no action 
alternative (not issue the Permit) would ultimately result in loss of 
scrub-jay habitat within the Project site due to habitat degradation. 
The no action alternative may also expose the Applicant under

[[Page 71131]]

Section 9 of the Act. The preferred alternative would affect about 0.85 
acre of occupied scrub-jay habitat. The Applicant's financial 
contribution to the Florida Scrub-jay Conservation Fund would provide 
funding to assist in the conservation of this species by assisting in 
land acquisition and/or habitat management.
    The proposed action alternative is issuance of the Permit according 
to the HCP as submitted and described above. Under the proposed 
alternative, the effect of the proposed minimization and mitigation 
measures will be a contribution of funding for scrub-jay conservation. 
The contribution of mitigation funding will provide the Service 
opportunities to protect and manage other suitable habitat in 
southeastern Florida. Mitigation funding will likely be used in 
combination with other matching sources of money to target the purchase 
of larger tracts of habitat. As a result, the immediate acquisition of 
habitat with the mitigation funding provided by the Applicant is not 
anticipated. However, any future acquisition made with all or portions 
of this funding is expected to benefit scrub-jays since habitat 
protection and management has been identified as one of the most 
important conservation tasks for this species.
    As stated above, the Service has made a preliminary determination 
that the issuance of the Permit 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.
    The Service will also evaluate whether the issuance of a section 
10(a)(1)(B) Permit 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 Permit.

    Dated: December 3, 2003.
Jackie Parrish,
Acting Regional Director.
[FR Doc. 03-31437 Filed 12-19-03; 8:45 am]