[Federal Register: November 2, 2005 (Volume 70, Number 211)]
[Page 66456-66457]
From the Federal Register Online via GPO Access [wais.access.gpo.gov]



Fish and Wildlife Service

Receipt of an Application for an Incidental Take Permit for the 
Florida Scrub-Jay Resulting from the Proposed Construction of a 
Combination of Office Space and Three-Story Townhomes in the Village of 
Tequesta, Palm Beach County, FL

AGENCY: Fish and Wildlife Service, Interior.

ACTION: Notice.


SUMMARY: Sundown Development and Realty (Applicant) is requesting an 
incidental take permit (ITP) for a period of five years, pursuant to 
section 10(a)(1)(B) of the Endangered Species Act of 1973, as amended 
(Act) (16 U.S.C. 1531 et seq.). The Applicant anticipates take of three 
federally threatened Florida scrub-jays (Aphelocoma coerulescens) 
(scrub-jay) incidental to clearing approximately 0.70 acre of scrub-jay 
foraging and roosting habitat in preparation for construction of a 
combination of office space and three-story townhomes on a 5.25-acre 
parcel (project). The anticipated take would occur in section 30, 
Township 40 South, Range 43 East, Village of Tequesta, Palm Beach 
County, Florida. The Applicant's Habitat Conservation Plan (HCP) 
describes the mitigation and minimization measures proposed to address 
the effects of the project on the scrub-jay. These measures are also 
outlined in the SUPPLEMENTARY INFORMATION section below.
    The Service announces the availability of the Applicant's ITP 
application, HCP and Environmental Assessment (EA). Copies of the 
application, HCP and EA may be obtained by making a request to the 
Southeast Regional Office (see ADDRESSES). Requests must be in writing 
to be processed. This notice is provided pursuant to section 10 of the 
Act and National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) regulations (40 CFR 

DATES: Written comments on the ITP application, EA, and HCP should be 
sent to the Service's Southeast Regional Office (see ADDRESSES) and 
should be received on or before January 3, 2006.

ADDRESSES: Persons wishing to review the application, EA, and HCP, may 
obtain a copy by writing the Service's Southeast Regional Office, at 
the address below. Please reference permit application number TE095780-
0 in such requests. Documents will also be available for public 
inspection by appointment during normal business hours at either the 
Southeast Regional Office, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, 1875 Century 
Boulevard, Suite 200, Atlanta, Georgia 30345 (Attn: Endangered Species 
Permits), or at the South Florida Ecological Services Office, U.S. Fish 
and Wildlife Service, 1339 20th Street, Vero Beach, Florida 32960-3559 
(Attn: Field Supervisor).

Coordinator, Southeast Regional Office (see ADDRESSES above), at 404-
679-7313, facsimile: 404-679-7081; or Ms. Constance Cassler, Fish and 
Wildlife Biologist, South Florida Ecological Services Office (see 
ADDRESSES above), at 772-562-3909, extension 243.

SUPPLEMENTARY INFORMATION: If you wish to comment, you may submit 
comments by any one of several methods. Please reference permit 
application number TE095780-0 in such comments. You may mail comments 
to the Service's Southeast 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 e-mail message. If you do not receive a 
confirmation that we have received your e-mail message, contact us 
directly at either telephone number listed above (see FOR FURTHER 
INFORMATION CONTACT). Finally, you may hand-deliver comments to either 
Service office listed above (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 addresses 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 scrub-jay is geographically isolated from other subspecies 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 (well drained, sandy soils supporting a growth of oak dominated 
scrub). Increasing urban and agricultural development has 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.
    Although little is known about the historic distribution and 
abundance of scrub-jays in southeastern Florida, it can be reasonably 
assumed that this species once occupied most of the non-forested xeric 
uplands along the Atlantic Coast

[[Page 66457]]

Ridge of southeastern Florida. Martin and northern Palm Beach counties 
have experienced tremendous human population growth over the last 100 
years, and as a result, much of the natural environment in this area 
has been altered. Much of the commercial and residential development 
has occurred on the xeric uplands that historically supported scrub-jay 
populations. What remains is largely degraded, due to the invasion by 
exotic species and by interruption of the natural fire regime, which is 
needed to maintain xeric uplands in conditions suitable for scrub-jays.
    Scrub-jays using the project site are part of a larger complex of 
this species that occupy xeric uplands of southeastern Florida, from 
northern Palm Beach County northward to the St. Lucie River in 
northeastern Martin County. The largest assemblage of scrub-jays in 
this metapopulation occurs in and around Johnathan Dickinson State 
Park. The continued survival and recovery of scrub-jays in this area is 
dependent on the maintenance of suitable habitat and the restoration of 
unsuitable habitat.
    Scrub-jay use of the project site and adjacent lands has been 
assessed on several occasions. Scrub-jay surveys were conducted by 
Environmental Services, Inc., from June 30 to July 3, 2003. A Service 
biologist confirmed the survey results and delineated additional 
habitat being utilized for foraging by three scrub-jays on November 19, 
2003. The project site comprises areas of bare sand, concrete pads, 
native and exotic vegetation, and can be classified as disturbed upland 
scrub. Scattered sandy patches interspersed with low growing vegetation 
provide foraging and caching opportunities for scrub-jays.
    The project site is surrounded by Great American RV on the south 
and by Cypress Manor Apartments on the west. The project site and 
surrounding lands have been negatively influenced by previous land 
clearing, development, and invasion by exotic species. Due to the 
proximity of the project site to existing residential development and 
urban infrastructure, fire has been actively excluded due to 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 a combination of office space and 
three-story town homes would destroy habitat and could 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 development would reduce the availability of foraging habitat 
for scrub-jays.
    The Applicant's HCP and the Service's EA describe the following 
minimization and mitigation strategy which would be employed by the 
Applicant to offset the impacts of the project to the scrub-jay:
     The Applicant agrees to contribute $109,830.97 to the 
Florida Scrub Jay Conservation Fund. As discussed in the Applicant's 
HCP, this amount will purchase 1.4 acres of scrub habitat (providing a 
2:1 compensation ratio) at current land values, plus a fee for 
perpetual management, along with a 5 percent administrative (overhead) 
     The Applicant agrees to plant a 0.20 acre portion of the 
landscape buffer, required by local building codes, with scrub 
vegetation as part of the Casa del Sol project.
     The Applicant agrees that no land clearing activities will 
take place during the scrub-jay breeding or nesting season (March-
    The EA considers the environmental consequences of one action 
alternative that would require issuance of an ITP and two alternatives 
in which an ITP would not be issued. The preferred alternative would 
result in the loss of about 0.70 acre of occupied scrub-jay habitat 
according to the HCP as submitted and described above. Under the 
proposed alternative, as mitigation, the Applicant would contribute 
funding for scrub-jay conservation. The Applicant's contribution to the 
Florida Scrub Jay Conservation Fund would be used to acquire and manage 
scrub-jay habitat in other areas in Palm Beach County, Florida and to 
help ensure the long-term survival of viable populations of the 
    As stated above, the Service has made a preliminary determination 
that the issuance of 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 NEPA. This preliminary information may 
be revised based on our consideration of public comments 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) ITP 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 ITP.

Noreen Walsh,
Acting Regional Director, Southeast Region.
[FR Doc. 05-21799 Filed 11-1-05; 8:45 am]