[Federal Register: August 29, 2005 (Volume 70, Number 166)]


[Page 51086-51088]

From the Federal Register Online via GPO Access [wais.access.gpo.gov]




Fish and Wildlife Service


Receipt of Two Applications for Incidental Take Permits for 

Construction of Single-Family Homes in Brevard County, FL

AGENCY: Fish and Wildlife Service, Interior.

ACTION: Notice.


SUMMARY: Maronda Homes, Inc. of Florida and Duke Construction 

Corporation (Applicants) each request an incidental take permit (ITP) 

pursuant to section 10(a)(1)(B) of the Endangered Species Act of 1973 

(U.S.C. 1531 et seq.), as amended (Act). The Applicants anticipate 

taking a combined total of about 0.48 acre of Florida scrub-jay 

(Aphelocoma coerulescens) (scrub-jay) foraging, sheltering, and 

possibly nesting habitat incidental to lot preparation for the 

construction of single-family homes and supporting infrastructure in 

Brevard County, Florida (Project). The destruction of 0.48 acre of 

foraging, sheltering, and possibly nesting habitat is expected to 

result in the take of one family of scrub-jays over requested permit 

terms of 10 years (Maronda) and 2 years (Duke).

    The Applicants' Habitat Conservation Plans (HCPs) describe the 

mitigation and minimization measures proposed to address the effects of 

the Projects to the Florida scrub-jay. These measures are outlined in 

the SUPPLEMENTARY INFORMATION section below. We have determined that 

the Applicants' proposals, including the proposed mitigation and 

minimization measures, will individually and cumulatively have a minor 

or negligible effect on the species covered in the HCPs. Therefore, the 

ITPs are ``low-effect'' projects and qualify as categorical exclusions 

under the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA), as provided by the 

Department of Interior Manual (516 DM 2, Appendix 1 and 516 DM 6, 

Appendix 1). Copies of the HCPs may be obtained by making a request to 

the Regional Office (see ADDRESSES). Requests must be in writing to be 

processed. This notice is provided pursuant to Section 10 of the 

Endangered Species Act and NEPA regulations (40 CFR 1506.6).

DATES: Written comments on the ITP applications and HCPs should be sent 

to the Service's Regional Office (see ADDRESSES) and should be received 

on or before September 28, 2005.

ADDRESSES: Persons wishing to review the applications and HCPs may 

obtain a copy by writing the Service's Southeast Regional Office, 

Atlanta, Georgia. Please reference permit number TE099862-0, for 

Maronda Homes and number TE099859-0, for Duke Construction in such 

requests. 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, 

6620 Southpoint Drive South, Suite 310, Jacksonville, Florida 32216-



Coordinator, (see ADDRESSES above), telephone: 404/679-7313, facsimile: 

404/679-7081; or Ms. Erin Gawera, General Biologist, Jacksonville Field 

Office, Jacksonville, Florida (see ADDRESSES above), telephone: 904/

232-2580, ext. 121.

SUPPLEMENTARY INFORMATION: If you wish to comment, you may submit

[[Page 51087]]

comments by any one of several methods. Please reference permit number 

TE099862-0, for Maronda Homes and number TE099859-0, for Duke 

Construction in such requests. You may mail comments to the Service's 

Regional Office (see ADDRESSES). You may also comment via the Internet 

to david_dell@fws.gov. 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 us 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 entirety.

    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 east 

central Florida has been exacerbated by tremendous urban growth in the 

past 50 years. Much of the historic commercial and residential 

development has occurred on the dry soils which previously supported 

scrub-jay habitat. Based on existing soils data, much of the historic 

and current scrub-jay habitat of coastal east-central Florida occurs 

proximal to the current shoreline and larger river basins. 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.

    Residential construction for Maronda Homes will take place within 

Section 23, Township 23 South, Range 35 East, Port St. Johns, Brevard 

County, Florida, on Lot 19, Block 67. Residential construction for Duke 

Construction will take place within Section 23, Township 34 South, 

Range 23 East, Port St. Johns, Brevard County, Florida, on Lot 15, 

Block 43. Each of these lots are within locations where scrub-jays were 

sighted during surveys for this species from 1999-2003.

    Scrub-jays affected by the issuance of this permit are found on the 

extreme western edge of a large area supporting a 16-family cluster of 

birds that inhabits urban areas, commercial development, and 

undeveloped native habitat in the ``Tico'' and ``Grissom'' territory 

cluster just south of Port St. John, Florida. This cluster of scrub-

jays is part of a larger metapopulation complex of scrub-jays that 

persists in northern Brevard County. The number of scrub-jay families 

in the vicinity of the project site and in the northern Brevard County 

metapopulation has declined in recent years. Survey results indicate 

that the number of scrub-jay families has declined in the Tico and 

Grissom cluster from 72 in the early 1990s to 47 in 2002 (33 percent 

decline). Similarly, the number of families of scrub-jays within the 

northern Brevard County metapopulation, which includes the Tico and 

Grissom territory cluster, has declined from 102 to 67 families (34 

percent decline) during this same time period. Both of these observed 

rates of decline approximate the four percent per year decline 

estimated by recent research findings.

    The decline in numbers of scrub-jay families in northern Brevard 

County is the cumulative result of habitat destruction, fragmentation, 

and degradation. Metapopulation viability analysis suggests that this 

metapopulation of scrub-jays has a high quasi-extinction risk if no 

further conservation efforts are undertaken to acquire and manage land 

for the benefit of scrub-jays. However, with active acquisition and 

management of habitat in the metapopulation, the quasi-extinction risk 

decreases substantially.

    The demographic viability, and thus future biological value, of 

scrub-jays within highly urbanized areas (e.g., residential areas, 

industrial sites, and other commercial development) is problematic in 

most situations but the contribution urban scrub-jays have on 

metapopulation dynamics is not certain. Research conducted in central 

Florida suggests that juvenile and adult scrub-jays living within urban 

areas have low survival rates and that the persistence of scrub-jays in 

these environments is largely dependent on immigration from other low-

quality habitat. In this instance, urban scrub-jays may have a negative 

impact on the demographic viability of the overall metapopulation since 

available breeders are essentially lost to habitats in which mortality 

exceeds recruitment. Other research conducted in east-central Florida 

suggests that recruitment will exceed mortality if optimal habitat 

conditions exist, regardless of whether the habitat is in a pristine or 

urban setting. In this case, urban scrub-jays would be as 

demographically important as scrub-jays in more pristine habitats.

    Regardless of whether the breeding territory is in an urbanized 

area or more pristine natural area, the success of a breeding pair is 

highly dependent on the quality of habitat within the territory. In 

most instances, scrub-jay habitat in urban settings is degraded due to 

long-term fire suppression and there is no indication that habitat in 

these settings will be managed in the future. Thus, we generally 

believe, and existing research supports, that in most urban settings, 

scrub-jays occupy less than optimal habitat and are therefore less 

demographically viable than birds occupying habitat in areas that are 

actively managed. Consequently, scrub-jays living within suburban areas 

of Port St. John and urbanized areas of Brevard County appear to be 

demographically doomed over the long term and the only potential 

biological value these birds currently have is in providing a source of 

breeders for other adjacent lands that are actively managed for 

conservation purposes. One such site is located approximately two miles 

north off of County Road 50 in the southern end of Titusville. The 52 

acres of scrub at this site is managed for scrub-jays through Brevard 

County's Environmentally Endangered Lands Program (EELS). Future 

acquisition is proposed by EELS for areas northwest and south of the 

project site, but until these lands are secured and managed, dispersing 

scrub-jays from the city may not find suitable habitat.

[[Page 51088]]

    The Applicants agree to avoid construction during the nesting 

season if active nests are found onsite, but no other on-site 

minimization measures are proposed to reduce take of scrub-jays. The 

lots combined encompass about 0.48 acre (0.24 acre each) and the 

footprint of the homes, infrastructure, and landscaping preclude 

retention of scrub-jay habitat. On-site minimization may not be a 

biologically viable alternative due to increasing negative demographic 

effects caused by urbanization.

    Based on the above information, we believe that scrub-jays in the 

vicinity of the Applicant's lots, currently have little long-term 

demographic value to the metapopulation overall. Consequently, we feel 

that the loss of 0.48 acres of habitat is likely to result in only 

minor or negligible impacts on the species.

    In combination, the Applicants propose to mitigate for the loss of 

0.48 acres of scrub-jay habitat by contributing a total of $6,432 

($3,216 for Maronda Homes and $3,216 for Duke Construction) to the 

Florida Scrub-jay Conservation Fund administered by the National Fish 

and Wildlife Foundation. Funds in this account are ear-marked for use 

in the conservation and recovery of scrub-jays and may include habitat 

acquisition, restoration, and/or management. The $6,432 is sufficient 

to acquire and perpetually manage about 0.96 acres of suitable occupied 

scrub-jay habitat based on a replacement ratio of two mitigation acres 

per one impact acre. The cost is based on previous acquisitions of 

mitigation lands in southern Brevard County at an average $5,700 per 

acre, plus a $1,000 per acre management endowment necessary to ensure 

future management of acquired scrub-jay habitat.

    We have determined that the HCPs are low-effect plans that are 

categorically excluded from further NEPA analysis, and do not require 

the preparation of an EA or EIS. This preliminary information may be 

revised due to public comment received in response to this notice. Low-

effect HCPs are those involving: (1) minor or negligible effects on 

federally listed or candidate species and their habitats, and (2) minor 

or negligible effects on other environmental values or resources. The 

Applicants' HCPs qualify for the following reasons:

    1. Approval of each of the HCPs would result in minor or negligible 

effects on the Florida scrub-jay population as a whole. We do not 

anticipate significant direct or cumulative effects to the Florida 

scrub-jay population as a result of the construction projects.

    2. Approval of each of the HCPs would not have adverse effects on 

known unique geographic, historic or cultural sites, or involve unique 

or unknown environmental risks.

    3. Approval of each of the HCPs would not result in any significant 

adverse effects on public health or safety.

    4. The projects do not require compliance with Executive Order 

11988 (Floodplain Management), Executive Order 11990 (Protection of 

Wetlands), or the Fish and Wildlife Coordination Act, nor do they 

threaten to violate a Federal, State, local or tribal law or 

requirement imposed for the protection of the environment.

    5. Approval of the Plans would not establish a precedent for future 

action or represent a decision in principle about future actions with 

potentially significant environmental effects.

    We have determined that issuance of these incidental take permits 

qualify as a categorical exclusion under the NEPA, as provided by the 

Department of the Interior Manual (516 DM 2, Appendix 1 and 516 DM 6, 

Appendix 1). Therefore, no further NEPA documentation will be prepared.

    We will evaluate the HCPs and comments submitted thereon to 

determine whether the applications meet the requirements of section 

10(a) of the Act. If it is determined that those requirements are met, 

the ITPs will be issued for the incidental take of the Florida scrub-

jay. We will also evaluate whether issuance of the section 10(a)(1)(B) 

ITPs comply with section 7 of the Act by conducting an intra-Service 

section 7 consultation. The results of this consultation, in 

combination with the above findings, will be used in the final analysis 

to determine whether or not to issue the ITPs.

    Dated: August 11, 2005.

Cynthia K. Dohner,

Acting Regional Director.

[FR Doc. 05-17077 Filed 8-26-05; 8:45 am]