[Federal Register: July 12, 2007 (Volume 72, Number 133)]
[Page 38098-38100]
From the Federal Register Online via GPO Access [wais.access.gpo.gov]



Fish and Wildlife Service

Habitat Conservation Plan for the Kern County Valley Floor, Kern 
County, CA

AGENCY: Fish and Wildlife Service, Interior.

ACTION: Notice of intent to prepare an Environmental Impact Statement 
(EIS) and notice of public meetings.


SUMMARY: Pursuant to the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA), the 
Fish and Wildlife Service (Service), advises the public that we intend 
to gather information necessary to prepare, in coordination with the 
California Department of Fish and Game (DFG), California Energy 
Commission, the California Department of Conservation Division of Oil, 
Gas and Geothermal Resources, and the County of Kern, a joint 
Environmental Impact Report/Environmental Impact Statement (EIR/EIS) on 
the Kern County Valley Floor Habitat Conservation Plan (VFHCP) Project. 
The VFHCP is being prepared under Section 10(a)(1)(B) of the Federal 
Endangered Species Act of 1973, as amended (Act). The County of Kern 
intends to apply for a 30-year incidental take permit from the Service. 
The permit is needed to authorize the incidental take of threatened and 
endangered species that could occur as a result of public and private 
    The Service provides this notice to (1) Describe the proposed 
action and possible alternatives; (2) advise other Federal and State 
agencies, affected Tribes, and the public of our intent to prepare an 
EIR/EIS; (3) announce the initiation of a public scoping period; and 
(4) obtain suggestions and information on the scope of issues to be 
included in the EIR/EIS.

DATES: Written comments should be received on or before August 13, 
2007. The public meeting will be held on Wednesday, July 25, 2007, from 
4 p.m. to 6 p.m.

ADDRESSES: The public meeting will be held at the following location: 
Wednesday, July 25, 2007, at the First Floor Public Meeting Room, Kern 
County Public Services Building, 2700 M Street, Bakersfield, California 
93301. Written comments submitted to Lori Rinek, Chief, Conservation 
Planning and

[[Page 38099]]

Recovery Division, Fish and Wildlife Service, Sacramento Fish and 
Wildlife Office, 2800 Cottage Way, W-2605, Sacramento, CA 95825. 
Comments may also be sent by facsimile to 916-414-6713.

FOR FURTHER INFORMATION CONTACT: Lori Rinek, Chief, Conservation 
Planning and Recovery Division, Sacramento Fish and Wildlife Office, at 


Reasonable Accommodation

    Persons needing reasonable accommodations in order to attend and 
participate in the public meeting should contact Lori Rinek at 916-414-
6600 as soon as possible. In order to allow sufficient time to process 
requests, please call no later than one week before the public meeting. 
Information regarding this proposed action is available in alternative 
formats upon request.


    Section 9 of the Act and Federal regulations prohibit the ``take'' 
of wildlife species listed as endangered or threatened (16 U.S.C. 
1538). The Act defines the term ``take'' as: to harass, harm, pursue, 
hunt, shoot, wound, kill, trap, capture, or collect listed species, or 
to attempt to engage in such conduct (16 U.S.C. 1532). Harm includes 
significant habitat modification or degradation that actually kills or 
injures listed wildlife by significantly impairing essential behavioral 
patterns, including breeding, feeding, and sheltering [50 CFR 17.3(c)]. 
Pursuant to section 10(a)(1)(B) of the Act, the Service may issue 
permits to authorize ``incidental take'' of listed species. 
``Incidental Take'' is defined by the Act 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.
    Take of listed plant species is not prohibited under the Act and 
cannot be authorized under a section 10 permit. We propose to include 
plant species on the permit in recognition of the conservation benefits 
provided to them under a habitat conservation plan. All species 
included on an incidental take permit would receive assurances under 
the Service's ``No Surprises'' regulation [50 CFR 17.22(b)(5) and 
    Species proposed for coverage in the HCP are species that are 
currently listed as federally threatened or endangered or have the 
potential to become listed during the life of this HCP and have some 
likelihood to occur within the project area. Should any of these 
unlisted covered wildlife species become listed under the Act during 
the term of the permit, take authorization for those species would 
become effective upon listing. There are 14 plant species and 11 animal 
species covered by the HCP which are known to occur within the area. 
Species may be added or deleted during the course of the development of 
the VFHCP based on further analysis, new information, agency 
consultation, and public comment. Currently the following listed plant 
and animal species are included in the plan: California jewelflower 
(Caulanthus californicus), Kern mallow (Eremalche kernensis), San 
Joaquin woolly-threads (Monolopia congdonii), Bakersfield cactus 
(Opuntia basilaris var. treleasei), San Joaquin adobe sunburst 
(Pseudobahia peirsonii), blunt-nosed leopard lizard (Gambelia sila), 
Buena Vista Lake shrew (Sorex ornatus relictus), Tipton kangaroo rat 
(Dipodomys nitratoides nitratoides), giant kangaroo rat (Dipodomys 
ingens), and San Joaquin kit fox (Vulpers macrotis mutica). Unlisted 
species proposed as covered species are the following: Heartscale 
(Atriplex cordulata), Bakersfield smallscale (Atriplex tularensis), 
Lost Hills crownscale (Atriplex vallicola), Slough thistle (Crisium 
crassicaule), Vasek's clarkia (Clarkia tembloriensis ssp. 
Calientensis), recurved larkspur (Delphinium recurvatum), Hoover's 
eriastrum (Eriastrum hooveri), striped adobe-lily (Fritillaria 
striata), Comanche Point layia (Layia leucopappa), California horned 
lizard (Phrynosoma coronatium frontale), San Joaquin whipsnake 
(Masticophis flagellum ruddocki), LeConte's thrasher (Toxostoma 
lecontei), San Joaquin antelope squirrel (Ammospermophilus nelsoni), 
short-nosed kangaroo rat (Dipodomys nitratoides brevinasus), and 
American badger (Taxidea taxus).
    A Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) was prepared in 1989 between 
the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, U.S. Bureau of Land Management, 
California Department of Fish and Game, California Energy Commission, 
and the California Department of Conservation Division of Oil, Gas, and 
Geothermal Resources to establish the Kern County Valley Floor Habitat 
Conservation Plan. The proposed VFHCP utilizes a conservation strategy 
that would provide for preservation of the best remaining natural lands 
while still allowing economic growth to occur in the area. The VFHCP 
area consists of approximately 3,110 square miles within Kern County. 
The boundaries are Kings and Tulare Counties to the north, up to an 
approximate 2,000-foot elevation contour to the south and east, and San 
Luis Obispo County to the west. The VFHCP area would be divided into 
three habitat zone categories of red, green, and white based on habitat 
value. Red Zones contain the highest valued conservation habitat and 
represent the best contiguous blocks of undisturbed or lightly 
disturbed habitat. Green Zones are second highest in priority 
classification and contain some disturbance and are important for 
movement of species among the Red Zones. The White Zones contain the 
least amount of valuable habitat and least priority for conservation.
    The VFHCP would result in take authorization for otherwise lawful 
actions, such as public and private development that may incidentally 
take or harm animal species or their habitats within the VFHCP area, in 
exchange for the assembly and management of a coordinated VFHCP area. 
Specifically these activities would include oil and gas development and 
maintenance projects, urban development and infrastructure, and 
development and maintenance of water delivery projects. The VFHCP would 
develop a program of take avoidance, minimization and mitigation, with 
an emphasis on preservation of the best remaining natural lands that 
will support viable populations and the continued existence of state 
and federally listed threatened or endangered species and California 
Species of Special Concern. The VFHCP creates a framework for complying 
with State and Federal listed threatened or endangered species 
regulations for specified species while accommodating future growth in 
the VFHCP area. The framework established by the VFHCP will allow for 
the assembly of contiguous parcels of habitat to provide viable habitat 
blocks and assist in the conservation of species.

Environmental Impact Statement/Report

    The EIR/EIS will consider the proposed action (i.e., the issuance 
of a section 10(a)1(B) permit under the Act), no action (no project/no 
section 10 permit), and a reasonable range of alternatives. A detailed 
description of the proposed action and alternatives will be included in 
the EIR/EIS. The alternatives to be considered for analysis in the EIR/
EIS may include: modified lists of covered species, land coverage 
areas, and intensity of future development. The EIR/EIS will also 
identify potentially significant impacts on biological resources, land 
use, air quality, water quality, water resources, economics, and other 

[[Page 38100]]

resource issues that could occur directly or indirectly with 
implementation of the proposed action and alternatives. Different 
strategies for avoiding, minimizing and mitigating the impacts of 
incidental take may also be considered.
    Environmental review of the EIR/EIS will be conducted in accordance 
with the requirements of NEPA (42 U.S.C. 4321 et. seq.), its 
implementing regulations (40 CFR parts 1500-1508), other applicable 
regulations, and Service procedures for compliance with those 
regulations. This notice is being furnished in accordance with 40 CFR 
1501.7 and 1508.22 to obtain suggestions and information from other 
agencies and the public on the scope of issues and alternatives to be 
addressed in the EIR/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 invited 
to ensure that the full range of issues related to the permit 
application is identified. Comments will only be accepted in written 
form. All comments received, including names and addresses, will become 
part of the official administrative record and may be made available to 
the public.
    Our practice is to make comments, including names, home addresses, 
home phone numbers, and e-mail addresses of respondents, available for 
public review. Individual respondents may request that we withhold 
their names and/or homes addresses, etc., but if you wish us to 
consider withholding this information you must state this prominently 
at the beginning of your comments. In addition, you must present a 
rationale for withholding this information. This rationale must 
demonstrate that disclosure would constitute a clearly unwarranted 
invasion of privacy. Unsupported assertions will not meet this burden. 
In the absence of exceptional, documentable circumstances, this 
information will be released. We will always make submissions from 
organizations or businesses, and from individuals identifying 
themselves as representatives of or officials of organizations or 
businesses, available for public inspection in their entirety.

    Dated: July 6, 2007.
Ken McDermond,
Deputy Manager, California/Nevada Operations Office, Sacramento, 
 [FR Doc. E7-13528 Filed 7-11-07; 8:45 am]