[Federal Register: December 22, 2005 (Volume 70, Number 245)]
[Page 76065-76066]
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 
Florida Scrub-jays Resulting From the Proposed Construction of a 
Combination Single-Family Home Subdivision and Commercial Facilities in 
the City of Melbourne, Brevard County, FL

AGENCY: Fish and Wildlife Service, Interior.

ACTION: Notice.


SUMMARY: Riverside Development Group, Inc. (Applicant) requests an 
incidental take permit (ITP) for a duration of two years, pursuant to 
section 10(a)(1)(B) of the Endangered Species Act of 1973 (Act) as 
amended (U.S.C. 1531 et seq.). The Applicant anticipates the loss of 
about 1.57 acres of occupied Florida scrub-jay (Aphelocoma 
coerulescens) (scrub-jay) habitat in Section 8, Township 27 South, 
Range 37 East, in the City of Melbourne, Brevard County, Florida. 
Habitat loss would occur as a result of vegetation clearing and the 
subsequent construction of a 126 unit single-family home subdivision 
and commercial facilities on the 36-acre project site. The loss of one 
scrub-jay family could occur as a result of the Applicant's proposed 
    The Applicant's Habitat Conservation Plan (HCP) describes the 
mitigation and minimization measures proposed to address the effects of 
the project on the Florida scrub-jay. These measures are also outlined 
in the Service's Environmental Assessment (EA) and in the SUPPLEMENTARY 
INFORMATION section below. The Service announces the availability of 
the ITP application, HCP, and 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 regulations (40 CFR 1506.6).

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 February 21, 2006.

ADDRESSES: Persons wishing to review the application, EA, and HCP may 
obtain a copy by writing the Service's Southeast Regional Office, U.S. 
Fish and Wildlife Service, 1875 Century Boulevard, Suite 200, Atlanta, 
Georgia 30030 (Attn: Endangered Species Permits). Please reference 
permit number TE102635-0 in such requests. Documents will also be 
available for public inspection by appointment during normal business 
hours at either the Southeast Regional Office or at the Jacksonville 
Field Office, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, 6620 Southpoint Drive 
South, Suite 310, Jacksonville, Florida 32216-0912 (Attn: Field 

Coordinator, Southeast Regional Office (see ADDRESSES above), 
telephone: 404/679-7313, facsimile: 404/679-7081; or Mr. Michael 
Jennings, Fish and Wildlife Biologist, Jacksonville Field Office (see 
ADDRESSES above), telephone: 904/232-2580, ext. 113.

SUPPLEMENTARY INFORMATION: If you wish to comment, you may submit 
comments by any one of several methods. Please reference permit number 
TE102635-0 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 
from us 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 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

[[Page 76066]]

peninsular Florida and is restricted to xeric uplands (well-drained, 
sandy soil habitats 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.
    The decline in the number and distribution of scrub-jays in east-
central Florida has been exacerbated by agricultural land conversions 
and urban growth in the past 50 years. Much of the historic commercial 
and residential development has occurred on the dry soils that 
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 interruption of 
natural fire regime that is needed to maintain xeric uplands in 
conditions suitable for scrub-jays.
    From 2000 through 2002, one family of scrub-jays was found using 
7.22 acres within the project site. Scrub-jays using the project site 
are part of a larger complex of scrub-jays located in a matrix of urban 
and natural settings in areas of central and south Brevard County. 
Scrub-jays in urban areas are particularly vulnerable and typically do 
not successfully produce young that survive to adulthood. Persistent 
urban growth in this area will likely further reduce the amount of 
suitable habitat for scrub-jays. Increasing urban pressures are also 
likely to result in the continued degradation of scrub-jay habitat, as 
the lack of naturally occurring fires slowly results in vegetative 
overgrowth. Thus, over the long-term, scrub-jays are unlikely to 
persist in urban settings, and conservation efforts for this species 
should target acquisition and management of large parcels of land 
outside the direct influence of urbanization. The retention of small 
patches of habitat similar to the onsite mitigation proposed by the 
Applicant, however, could provide benefits to scrub-jays by creating 
``stepping stones'' used by scrub-jays dispersing between larger 
parcels of conservation lands in Brevard County.
    Construction of the project's infrastructure and facilities would 
result in harm to scrub-jays, incidental to the carrying out of these 
otherwise lawful activities. Specifically, habitat alteration 
associated with the proposed residential and commercial construction 
and associated infrastructure would reduce the availability of 
foraging, sheltering, and possible nesting habitat for one family of 
    The Applicant proposes to minimize impacts to scrub-jays by 
reducing the project's footprint and avoiding active nest sites during 
the breeding season. The Applicant proposes to mitigate the take of 
scrub-jays by removing 5.65 acres of occupied scrub-jay habitat from 
the project's development footprint. In addition, the Applicant 
proposes to set aside and manage an additional 0.77 acres of 
unoccupied, but restorable onsite habitat as a buffer to the adjacent 
occupied habitat. Fee title to the entire onsite mitigation area would 
be transferred to Brevard County, and its Environmentally Endangered 
Lands Program would subsequently assume management responsibilities for 
the mitigation property. The Applicant proposes to establish an escrow 
account in the amount of $7,704 to pay for the costs of initial land 
restoration and management activities that would be undertaken prior to 
fee title transfer to Brevard County.
    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 the National Environmental Policy Act. 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 evaluate the HCP and comments submitted thereon to 
determine whether the application meets the requirements of section 
10(a) of the Act. If it is determined that those requirements are met, 
the ITP would be issued for the incidental take of the Florida scrub-
jay. The Service will also evaluate whether issuance of the section 
10(a)(1)(B) ITP complies 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 ITP.

    Dated: December 1, 2005.
Cynthia K. Dohner,
Acting Regional Director, Southeast Region.
 [FR Doc. E5-7664 Filed 12-21-05; 8:45 am]