[Federal Register: January 10, 2005 (Volume 70, Number 6)]
[Page 1737-1738]
From the Federal Register Online via GPO Access [wais.access.gpo.gov]



Fish and Wildlife Service

Notice of Intent to Scope for the Preparation of an Environmental 
Impact Statement for the Proposed Issuance of an Incidental Take Permit 
Associated With the Agua Caliente Band of Cahuilla Indians Habitat 
Conservation Plan, Riverside County, CA

AGENCY: Fish and Wildlife Service, Interior.

ACTION: Notice of intent.


SUMMARY: Pursuant to the National Environmental Policy Act of 1969, as 
amended, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (Service) as the lead 
agency, advises the public that it is preparing an Environmental Impact 
Statement (EIS) for the Agua Caliente Band of Cahuilla Indians Habitat 
Conservation Plan (HCP) in Riverside County, California. The proposed 
HCP is being prepared in compliance with the Endangered Species Act of 
1973, as amended (Act) (16 U.S.C. 1531 et seq.). The HCP is intended to 
support the issuance of an incidental take permit to the Agua Caliente 
Band of Cahuilla Indians (Tribe) from the Service under section 
10(a)(1)(B) of the Act. The requested incidental take permit, if 
granted, would authorize the permittees to incidentally take species 
federally listed under the Act as a result of activities proposed to be 
covered under the HCP. It would also address incidental take of other 
species that are not currently listed, should they be listed during the 
permit term. The planning area for the HCP is located within the 
Coachella Valley in eastern Riverside County. The HCP would provide 
measures to minimize and mitigate the impacts of the proposed taking of 
covered species and the habitats upon which they depend.
    The Service is furnishing this notice in compliance with the 
National Environmental Policy Act and implementing regulations for the 
following purposes: (1) to advise other Federal and State agencies, 
affected tribes, and the public of our intent to prepare an EIS; (2) 
announce the initiation of a 30-day public scoping period; and (3) to 
obtain suggestions and information on the scope of issues and 
alternatives to be considered in the EIS.

DATES: Written comments should be received on or before February 9, 

ADDRESSES: Address comments, requests for more information, or requests 
to be added to the mailing list for this project to: Ms. Therese 
O'Rourke, Assistant Field Supervisor, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, 
Carlsbad Fish and Wildlife Office, 6010 Hidden Valley Road, Carlsbad, 
California 92009 or by facsimile to (760) 431-5902.

Biologist, at (760) 431-9440, extension 309 [see ADDRESSES].



    Section 9 of the Federal ESA (16 U.S.C. 1531 et seq.) and Federal 
regulations prohibit the ``take'' of a fish or wildlife species listed 
as endangered or threatened. Take of federally listed fish and wildlife 
is defined under the ESA as including to ``harass, harm, pursue, hunt, 
shoot, wound, kill, trap, capture or collect, or to attempt to engage 
in such conduct'' (16 U.S.C. 1538). The Service may, under limited 
circumstances, issue permits to authorize ``incidental take'' of listed 
species. ``Incidental take'' is defined by the ESA as take that is 
incidental to, and not the purpose of, carrying out an otherwise lawful 
activity. Regulations governing permits for threatened species and 
endangered species, respectively, are at 50 CFR 17.32 and 50 CFR 17.22.
    An incidental take permit is needed to authorize take of listed 
species (including harm, injury and harassment) during urban and rural 
development on the Agua Caliente Reservation (Reservation). The Tribe 
is requesting a permit for incidental take of covered species on lands 
included in the proposed HCP. The HCP planning area includes lands 
within and near the Reservation and encompasses approximately 87,000 
acres. The Reservation totals about 31,500 acres.
    The HCP proposes coverage of 24 species: 9 federally-listed 
(threatened or endangered) species, 1 Federal candidate species, and 14 
unlisted species that may become listed during the term of the proposed 
permit. The species proposed for coverage include: Peninsular bighorn 
sheep (Ovis canadensis nelsoni), Coachella Valley round-tailed ground 
squirrel (Spermophilus tereticaudus chlorus), Palm Springs pocket mouse 
(Perognathus longimembris bangsi), southern yellow bat (Lasiurus ega 
xanthinus), least Bell's vireo (Vireo bellii pusillus), southwestern 
willow flycatcher (Epidonax traillii extimus),

[[Page 1738]]

summer tanager (Piranga rubra cooperi), yellow-breasted chat (Icteria 
virens), yellow warbler (Dendroica petechia brewstri), burrowing owl 
(Athene cunicularia), gray vireo (Vireo vicinior), Le Conte's thrasher 
(Toxostoma lecontei), crissal thrasher (Toxostoma crissali), California 
red-legged frog (Rana aurora draytonii), mountain yellow-legged frog 
(Rana muscosa), desert tortoise (Gopherus agassizii), Coachella Valley 
fringe-toed lizard (Uma inornata), flat-tailed horned lizard 
(Phyrnosoma mcalli), Coachella Valley grasshopper (Spaniacris 
deserticola), Coachella giant sand-treader cricket (Macrobaenetes 
valgum), Coachella Valley Jerusalem cricket (Stenopelmatus 
cahuilaensis), Coachella Valley milk vetch (Astragalus lentiginosus 
var. coachellae), triple-ribbed milk vetch (Astragalus tricarinatus), 
and little San Bernardino Mountains gilia (Linanthus maculatus).
    The Tribe intends for the HCP to serve four main purposes: (1) To 
set forth a program for protecting natural resources while managing 
economic development objectives for the Reservation; (2) to streamline 
compliance with the Act into a comprehensive Reservation-wide approach; 
and (3) to recognize the Tribe's traditional sovereign land and 
resource management policies and practices; and (4) to provide a 
feasible and practicable means for the Tribe to conserve the 24 
species, and for the Service to meet the responsibilities of the Act 
under Secretarial Order 3206 and Executive Order 13175.
    The proposed HCP would be a comprehensive plan that seeks to 
address the 24 covered species within a reserve system. Specifically, 
the proposed HCP would establish: (1) A Mountains and Canyons 
Conservation Area in which certain lands are proposed to be dedicated 
to the reserve system and general and species-specific conservation 
measures would be imposed on covered projects and/or implemented by the 
Tribe, and (2) a Valley Floor Conservation Area from which funding 
would generally be required for acquisition and management of 
additional reserve lands, certain lands would be dedicated to the 
reserve system, and additional conservation measures would be required 
to protect certain covered species. The proposed HCP includes avoidance 
and minimization measures, the establishment of the reserve system, and 
adaptive management and monitoring pursuant to the Act. The activities 
proposed to be covered by the HCP include construction and development 
activities and covered conservation and maintenance activities 
(including operation and maintenance of public facilities and 
conservation management).

Public Comments

    With the publication of this notice, the public is encouraged to 
submit written comments. Comments received shall be used to identify 
issues and draft alternatives. All comments received from individuals 
on Environmental Impact Statements become part of the official public 
record. Requests for such comments will be handled in accordance with 
the Freedom of Information Act, the Council on Environmental Quality's 
NEPA regulations [40 CFR 1506.6(f)], and other Service and Departmental 
policy and procedures.

Environmental Impact Statement

    The Tribe and the Service have selected Helix Environmental 
Planning, Inc., to prepare the EIS. The document will be prepared in 
compliance with the National Environmental Policy Act (42 U.S.C. 4321, 
et seq.). Helix Environmental Planning, Inc., will prepare the EIS 
under the supervision of the Service, who is responsible for the scope 
and content of the document.
    The EIS will identify potentially significant direct, indirect, and 
cumulative impacts on biological resources, land use, air quality, 
water quality, water resources, economics, and other environmental 
issues that could occur with the implementation of the Service's 
proposed actions and alternatives. The EIS will consider the proposed 
action, the issuance of a section 10(a)(1)(B) permit under the Act, and 
a reasonable range of alternatives. A detailed description of the 
impacts of the proposed action and each alternative will be included in 
the EIS. Several alternatives, including a No Action alternative will 
be considered and analyzed, representing varying levels of 
conservation, impacts, and permit area configurations. The No Action 
alternative means that the Service would not issue a section 
10(a)(1)(B) permit.
    Review of this project will be conducted in accordance with the 
National Environmental Policy Act of 1969, as amended (42 U.S.C. 4321 
et seq.), associated regulations (40 CFR parts 1500-1508) found at 
(http://www.legal.gsa.gov), other appropriate Federal laws, and Service 

policies and procedures for compliance with those regulations. This 
notice is being furnished in accordance with 40 CFR 1501.7 of the 
National Environmental Policy Act to obtain suggestions and information 
from other agencies and the public on the scope of issues and 
alternatives to be addressed in the EIS. The primary purpose of the 
scoping process is to identify important issues raised by the public, 
related to the proposed action. Written comments from interested 
parties are welcome to ensure that the full range of issues related to 
the permit request is identified. All comments received, including 
names and addresses, will become part of the official administrative 
record and may be made available to the public.

    Dated: January 4, 2005.
David G. Paullin,
Acting Deputy Manager, California/Nevada Operations Office, Sacramento, 
[FR Doc. 05-406 Filed 1-7-05; 8:45 am]