[Federal Register: May 16, 2008 (Volume 73, Number 96)]
[Page 28497-28498]
From the Federal Register Online via GPO Access [wais.access.gpo.gov]



Fish and Wildlife Service

[FWS-R2-ES-2008-N0086; 20124-11120000-F2]

Regional Habitat Conservation Plan, Hays County, TX

AGENCY: Fish and Wildlife Service, Interior.

ACTION: Notice of intent to prepare an environmental impact statement; 
announcement of public scoping meeting; request for comments.


SUMMARY: We, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (Service), advise the 
public that we intend to prepare an Environmental Impact Statement 
(EIS) to evaluate the impacts of, and alternatives to, the proposed 
issuance of an Incidental Take Permit (ITP) under the Endangered 
Species Act of 1973 (Act), as amended (16 U.S.C. 1531 et seq.) to Hays 
County, Texas (Applicant). We also announce a public scoping meeting 
and public comment period.

DATES: We must receive written comments on alternatives and issues to 
be addressed in the EIS by July 18, 2008. We will hold a public scoping 
meeting on June 18, 2008, from 5:30 p.m. to 8:30 p.m. at the San Marcos 
Activity Center, 501 E. Hopkins Road, San Marcos, TX 78666.

ADDRESSES: Send your comments or request for information by any one of 
the following methods:
     U.S. mail: Field Supervisor, Fish and Wildlife Service, 
10711 Burnet Road, Suite 200, Austin, TX 78758.
     Facsimile: 512-490-0974.
     E-mail: info@hayscountyhcp.com.

 EIS Information: Ms. Allison Arnold, U.S. Fish and Wildlife 
Service, 10711 Burnet Road, Suite 200, Austin, TX 78758; 512-490-0057 
(phone); 512-490-0974 (fax); or Allison_Arnold@fws.gov (e-mail).
     Hays County RHCP Information: County Judge Liz Sumter, 111 
E. San Antonio St., Suite 300, San Marcos, TX 78666; 512-393-2205 
(phone); or 512-393-2282 (fax).
     Other Information: You may obtain additional information 
on the Hays County RHCP on the Internet at http://

SUPPLEMENTARY INFORMATION: We intend to prepare an EIS to evaluate the 
impacts of, and alternatives to, the proposed issuance of an ITP under 
the Act, to the Applicant. We also announce a public scoping meeting 
and public comment period. The Applicant proposes to apply for an ITP 
supported by development and implementation of the Hays County Regional 
Habitat Conservation Plan (RHCP). The Hays County RHCP will include 
measures necessary to minimize and mitigate the impacts of the proposed 
taking on the federally-listed species. We furnish this notice in 
compliance with the National Environmental Policy Act of 1969 (NEPA), 
as amended (42 U.S.C. 4321 et seq.), and its implementing regulations 
(40 CFR 1500-1508), in order to: (1) Advise other Federal and state 
agencies, affected tribes, and the public of our intent to prepare an 
EIS; (2) announce the initiation of a public scoping period; and (3) 
obtain suggestions and information on the scope of issues and 
alternatives we will consider in our EIS. We intend to gather the 
information necessary to determine impacts and alternatives for an EIS 
regarding our potential issuance of an ITP to the Applicant, and the 
implementation of the Hays County RHCP.

Purpose and Need for Action

    Section 9 of the Act and its implementing regulations prohibit take 
of species listed under the Act as endangered or threatened. The 
definition of ``take'' under the Act includes the following activities: 
To harass, harm, pursue, hunt, shoot, wound, kill, trap, capture, or 
collect listed animal species, or attempt to engage in any such conduct 
(16 U.S.C. 1538). Regulations define ``harm'' as significant habitat 
modification or degradation that results in actual death or injury to 
the listed species by significantly impairing essential behavioral 
patterns, including breeding, feeding, or sheltering (50 CFR 17.3).
    Section 10(a)(1)(B) of the Act requires us to issue ITPs to non-
Federal entities for take of endangered and threatened species, 
provided the following criteria are met: (1) The taking will be 
incidental; (2) the applicant will, to the maximum extent practicable, 
minimize and mitigate the impact of such taking; (3) the applicant will 
develop a habitat conservation plan and ensure that adequate funding 
for the plan will be provided; (4) the taking will not appreciably 
reduce the likelihood of the survival and recovery of the species in 
the wild; and (5) the applicant will carry out any other measures that 
we may require as being necessary or appropriate for the purposes of 
the habitat conservation plan.
    We anticipate that under the ITP, the Applicant will request 
coverage for a period of 30 years from the date of the RHCP approval. 
Implementation of the Hays County RHCP would result in the 
establishment of preserves intended to provide for the conservation of 
the covered species occupying those preserves. Research, monitoring, 
and adaptive management would be used to facilitate accomplishment of 
these goals.

Proposed Action

    The proposed action is the issuance of an ITP for the covered 
species in Hays County. The Applicant would develop and implement the 
Hays County RHCP, which must meet the requirements in section 
10(a)(2)(A) of the Act by providing measures necessary to minimize and 
mitigate the impacts of the proposed taking on the covered species.
    Activities proposed for coverage under the ITP include otherwise 
lawful activities that would occur consistent with the Hays County RHCP 
and include, but are not limited to, construction and maintenance of 
public projects and infrastructure as well as residential, commercial, 
and industrial development.
    Species the Applicant has recommended for inclusion as covered 
species in the Hays County RHCP include the golden-cheeked warbler 
(Dendroica chrysoparia) and black-capped vireo (Vireo atricapilla). For 
these covered species, Hays County would seek incidental take 
authorization. The Hays County RHCP would also address 40 ``evaluation 
species'' (39 terrestrial or aquatic karst species and the Cagle's map 
turtle (Graptemys caglei)) and 15 ``additional species'' (6 listed 
aquatic species, 3 unlisted plants, and 6 unlisted surface aquatic 
species). Incidental take authorization for the evaluation species may 
become necessary to include in the proposed ITP over the term of the 
Hays County RHCP; however, these species will not be initially included 
as ``covered'' species. Evaluation species may be currently unlisted, 
but could become listed in the foreseeable future. The Hays County RHCP 
may include conservation measures to benefit evaluation species, where 
practicable, and support research to help fill data gaps regarding the 
biology, habitat, distribution, or management of these species. The 
research supported by the RHCP may aide in the conservation of these 
species or facilitate obtaining incidental take coverage, if these 
species become listed in the future. For the 15

[[Page 28498]]

``additional species,'' Hays County would not seek incidental take 
authorization because these species either are not currently listed as 
threatened or endangered, or are not likely to experience take from 
covered activities, or insufficient information is available to 
adequately evaluate take and mitigation.


    The proposed action and alternatives that will be developed in the 
EIS will be assessed against the No Action/No Project Alternative, 
which assumes that some or all of the current and future take of 
covered species in Hays County would be implemented individually, one 
at a time, and be in compliance with the Act. The No Action/No Project 
alternative implies that the impacts from these potential activities on 
the covered species would be evaluated and mitigated on a project-by-
project basis, as is currently the case. For any activities involving 
take of listed species due to non-Federal actions, individual Section 
10(a)(1)(B) permits would be required. Without a coordinated, 
comprehensive conservation approach for Hays County, listed species may 
not be adequately addressed by individual project-specific mitigation 
requirements, unlisted candidate and other rare species would not 
receive proactive conservation actions, and mitigation would be less 
cost effective in helping Federal and non-Federal agencies work toward 
recovery of listed species. Current independent conservation actions 
would continue, although some of these are not yet funded. A reasonable 
range of alternatives would also be considered, along with the 
associated impacts of the various alternatives.

Scoping Meeting

    A primary purpose of the scoping process is to receive suggestions 
and information on the scope of issues and alternatives to consider 
when drafting the EIS, and to identify, rather than debate, significant 
issues related to the proposed action. In order to ensure that we 
identify a range of issues and alternatives related to the proposed 
action, we invite comments and suggestions from all interested parties. 
We will accept oral and written comments at this meeting. You may also 
submit your comments to the address listed in ADDRESSES. Once the draft 
EIS RHCP are completed, additional opportunity for public comment on 
the content of these documents and an additional public meeting will be 
    We will conduct a review of this project according to the 
requirements of NEPA and its regulations; other appropriate Federal 
laws, regulations, policies, and guidance; and Service procedures for 
compliance with those regulations.
    Persons needing reasonable accommodations in order to attend and 
participate in the public meeting should contact the Service at the 
address below no later than one week before the public meeting. 
Information regarding this proposed action is available in alternative 
formats upon request.

Public Availability of Comments

    All comments we receive become part of the public record. Requests 
for comments will be handled in accordance with the Freedom of 
Information Act, NEPA, and Service and Department of the Interior 
policies and procedures. 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 can ask us to withhold your personal identifying 
information from public review, we cannot guarantee we will be able to 
do so.

Environmental Review

    The EIS will be prepared in accordance with the requirements of 
NEPA, its implementing regulations (40 CFR parts 1500-1508), other 
applicable regulations, and the Service's procedures for compliance 
with those regulations. The EIS will analyze the proposed action, as 
well as a range of reasonable alternatives and the associated impacts 
of each. The EIS will be the basis for our evaluation of impacts to the 
covered species and the range of alternatives to be addressed. We 
expect the EIS to provide biological descriptions of the affected 
species and habitats, as well as the effects of the proposed action on 
resources such as: vegetation, wetlands, wildlife, threatened or 
endangered species and rare species, geology and soils, air quality, 
water resources, flood control, water quality, cultural resources 
(prehistoric, historic, and traditional cultural properties), land use, 
recreation, water use, local economy, and environmental justice.
    After the environmental review is complete, we will publish a 
notice of availability along with a request for comment on the draft 
EIS and the applicant's permit application, which will include the Hays 
County RHCP. The draft EIS and RHCP are expected to be completed and 
available to the public by January 2009.

Thomas L. Bauer,
Acting Regional Director, Southwest Region, Albuquerque, New Mexico.
[FR Doc. E8-10941 Filed 5-15-08; 8:45 am]