[Federal Register: October 12, 2007 (Volume 72, Number 197)]
[Page 58112-58113]
From the Federal Register Online via GPO Access [wais.access.gpo.gov]



Fish and Wildlife Service

Notice of Availability of a Draft Environmental Impact Statement 
and Receipt of an Application for an Incidental Take Permit for the 
Agua Caliente Tribal Habitat Conservation Plan, Riverside County, 

AGENCY: Fish and Wildlife Service, Interior.

ACTION: Notice of availability and receipt of application.


SUMMARY: The Agua Caliente Band of Cahuilla Indians (Applicant) has 
applied to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (Service) for an 
incidental take permit pursuant to section 10(a)(1)(B) of the 
Endangered Species Act of 1973, as amended (Act). The Service is 
requesting public comment on the Draft Agua Caliente Tribal Habitat 
Conservation Plan (THCP), Draft Implementing Agreement, and Draft 
Environmental Impact Statement (EIS). The Applicant is requesting a 
permit for 24 species, seven of which are currently listed as 
threatened or endangered under the Act. Of these 24 species, the 
Applicant requests a permit and assurances for 15 animal species that 
are not currently listed and assurances for two plant species. The 
permit is needed to authorize incidental take of listed animal species 
(including harm, injury, and harassment) due to development and certain 
other activities in the approximately 35,871-acre (56-square mile) Plan 
Area in the Coachella Valley of Riverside County, California.

DATES: Written comments must be received on or before January 10, 2008.

ADDRESSES: Send written comments to Mr. Jim Bartel, Field Supervisor, 
U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, Carlsbad Fish and Wildlife Office, 6010 
Hidden Valley Road, Carlsbad, California 92011. You may also submit 
comments by facsimile to 760-431-9624.

FOR FURTHER INFORMATION CONTACT: Ms. Therese O'Rourke, Assistant Field 
Supervisor, at the Carlsbad Fish and Wildlife Office above; telephone 


Availability of Documents

    Documents available for public review include the permit 
application, the Public Review Draft THCP and Appendices, the 
accompanying Draft Implementing Agreement, and the Draft EIS.
    Individuals wishing to obtain copies of the documents should 
contact the Service by telephone at 760-431-9440, or by letter to the 
Carlsbad Fish and Wildlife Office (see FOR FURTHER INFORMATION 
CONTACT). Copies of the Draft THCP, Draft EIS, and Draft Implementing 
Agreement also are available for public review, by appointment, during 
regular business hours at the Carlsbad Fish and Wildlife Office (see 
ADDRESSES) or at the Tribal Planning & Development Department Office, 
777 East Tahquitz, Suite 301, Palm Springs, California 92262. Copies 
are also available for viewing on the Internet at http://frwebgate.access.gpo.gov/cgi-bin/leaving.cgi?from=leavingFR.html&log=linklog&to=http://www.aguacaliente.org
 and in the Palm Springs, Rancho Mirage, Cathedral 

City branch, and Desert Hot Springs public libraries:
    (1) Palm Springs City Library: 300 South Sunrise Way, Palm Springs, 
CA 92262.
    (2) Rancho Mirage Public Library: 71100 Highway 111, Rancho Mirage, 
CA 92270.
    (3) Cathedral City Branch Library: 33520 Date Palm Drive, Cathedral 
City, CA 92234.
    (4) Desert Hot Springs Branch Library: 11691 West Drive, Desert Hot 
Springs, CA 92240.

Background Information

    Section 9 of the Act and Federal regulation prohibit the ``take'' 
of fish and wildlife species federally listed as endangered or 
threatened. Take of federally listed fish or wildlife is defined under 
the Act to include kill, harm, or harass. 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)). 
Under limited circumstances, the Service may issue permits to authorize 
incidental take; that is, take that is incidental to, and not the 
purpose of, otherwise lawful activity. Although take of plant species 
is not prohibited under the Act, and therefore cannot be authorized 
under an incidental take permit, plant species are proposed to be 
included on the permit in recognition of the conservation benefits 
provided to them under the THCP. Regulations governing incidental take 
permits for threatened and endangered species are found in 50 CFR 17.22 
and 17.32, respectively.
    The applicant seeks an incidental take permit for 24 species, nine 
of which are currently listed as threatened or endangered under the 
Act. Proposed covered species include four wildlife species listed as 
endangered under the Act [Peninsular bighorn sheep (Ovis canadensis 
nelsoni), least Bell's vireo (Vireo bellii pusillus), southwestern 
willow flycatcher (Empidonax traillii extimus), and mountain yellow-
legged frog (Rana muscosa)], three wildlife species listed as 
threatened under the Act [California red-legged frog (Rana aurora 
draytonii), desert tortoise (Gopherus agassizii), and Coachella Valley 
fringe-toed lizard (Uma inornata)], and two plant species listed as 
endangered under the Act [triple-ribbed milk-vetch (Astragalus 
tricarinatus) and Coachella Valley milk-vetch (Astragalus lentiginosus 
coachellae)]. Proposed covered species also include 15 wildlife species 
that are not currently listed under the Act: summer tanager (Piranga 
rubra cooperi), yellow-breasted chat (Icteria virens), yellow warbler 
(Dendroica petechia brewstri), southern yellow bat (Lasiurus ega 
(xanthinus)), burrowing owl (Athene cunicularia), grey vireo (Vireo 
vicinior), Coachella giant sand-treader cricket (Macrobaentes valgum), 
flat-tailed horned lizard (Phrynosoma mcalli), Palm Springs pocket 
mouse (Perognathus longimebris bangsi), Palm Springs (Coachella Valley 
round-tailed) ground squirrel (Spremophilus tereticaudus var. 
coachellae), Cochella giant sand treader cricket (Macrobentes valgum), 
Coachella Valley Jerusalem criket (Stenopelmatus cahuilaensis), Le 
Conte's thrasher (Toxostoma lecontei), Crissal thrasher (Toxostoma 
crissali), Casey's June beetle (Dinacoma caseyi).
    The THCP is intended to protect and sustain viable populations of 
native plant and animal species and their habitats in perpetuity 
through the creation of a reserve system, while accommodating continued 
economic development and quality of life for residents in the Plan 
Area. The 2000 U.S. Census determined that

[[Page 58113]]

approximately 21,500 individuals are residents on the Reservation, with 
approximately 98 percent of those individuals living in the Plan Area's 
Valley Floor Conservation Area. An additional approximately 200 
residents live within off-Reservation Target Acquisition Areas. Within 
the Plan Area and the surrounding incorporated areas of Palm Springs, 
Rancho Mirage, Cathedral City, and Desert Hot Springs as well as the 
unincorporated County of Riverside, the Southern California Area 
Government (SCAG) anticipates the growth rate over the next 30-year 
period (between 2000 and 2030) to average 129 percent between these 
    The THCP Plan Area encompasses approximately 35,871 acres in the 
Coachella Valley within the vicinity of the following three 
incorporated cities: Cathedral City, Palm Springs, and Rancho Mirage. 
Specifically, the Plan Area encompasses sections of land in a 
checkerboard pattern with lands included in the Coachella Valley Area 
Government's draft Multiple Species Habitat Conservation Plan. The THCP 
Plan Area encompasses both Reservation (i.e., Tribal Trust Land, 
Allotted Trust Land, and Fee Land) and other off-Reservation lands held 
by the applicant and is one of three large habitat planning efforts in 
Riverside County.
    As described in the Draft THCP and the Draft EIS, the proposed THCP 
would provide for the creation of a reserve system that protects and 
manages up to approximately 19,375 acres of habitat for the Covered 
Species. The proposed reserve system will be established from lands 
within the Plan Area as well as lands outside the current Plan Area 
(identified as the Action Area in the THCP) and within a priority 
system encompassing seven conservation areas that are either adjacent 
or linked by biological corridors. The acquisition program for the 
reserve system, involving conservation of a maximum of 19,375 acres, is 
anticipated to occur over the life of the permit. When completed, the 
reserve system will include core habitat for Covered Species, essential 
ecological processes, and biological corridors and linkages to provide 
for the conservation of the proposed Covered Species.
    The THCP includes measures to avoid, minimize, and mitigate 
incidental take of the Covered Species, emphasizing project design 
modifications to protect both habitats and species' individuals where 
appropriate. A monitoring and reporting plan would gauge the Plan's 
success based on achievement of biological goals and objectives and 
would ensure that conservation keeps pace with development. The THCP 
also includes a management program, including adaptive management, 
which allows for changes in the conservation program if the biological 
species objectives are not met, or new information becomes available to 
improve the efficacy of the THCP conservation strategy. Covered 
Activities would include public and private development conducted by 
the applicant, Tribal members, or non-Federal third parties within the 
Plan Area that requires certain ministerial and discretionary actions 
by the applicant subject to consistency with THCP policies.
    The Draft EIS analyzes three other alternatives in addition to the 
proposed THCP Preferred Project Alternative described above including: 
A No Action Alternative in which the applicant and Bureau of Indian 
Affairs would continue to seek incidental take authorizations on a 
project-by-project basis, as necessary, resulting in a piece-meal 
approach to habitat conservation; an alternative that includes 
implementing the 2002-approved THCP without a section 10(a) permit 
resulting in less conservation; and, an expanded conservation 
alternative that includes additional Peninsular bighorn sheep habitat 
impact avoidance.

Public Comments

    The Service and the applicant invite the public to comment on the 
Draft THCP, Draft Implementing Agreement, and Draft EIS during a 90-day 
public comment period beginning the date of this notice. Before 
including your address, phone number, e-mail address, or other personal 
identifying information in your comment, you should be aware that your 
entire comment--including your personal identifying information--may be 
made publicly available at any time. While you may ask us in your 
comment to withhold your personal identifying information from public 
review, we cannot guarantee that we will be able to do so.
    This notice is provided pursuant to section 10(a) of the Act and 
Service regulations for implementing the National Environmental Policy 
Act (NEPA). The Service will evaluate the application, associated 
documents, and comments submitted thereon to prepare a Final to the 
draft EIS. A permit decision will be made no sooner than 30 days after 
the publication of the Final EIS and completion of the Record of 

    Dated: October 2, 2007.
Ken McDermond,
Deputy Manager, California/Nevada Operations Office, Sacramento, 
[FR Doc. E7-19852 Filed 10-11-07; 8:45 am]