[Federal Register: February 4, 2009 (Volume 74, Number 22)]
[Page 6050-6052]
From the Federal Register Online via GPO Access [wais.access.gpo.gov]



Fish and Wildlife Service

[FWS-R8-2008-N0289; 1112-0000-80221-F2]

Tehachapi Uplands Multiple Species Habitat Conservation Plan

AGENCY: Fish and Wildlife Service, Interior.

ACTION: Notice of availability and receipt of application.


SUMMARY: This notice announces the availability of the draft Tehachapi 
Uplands Multiple Species Habitat Conservation Plan (MSHCP), draft 
Implementing Agreement (IA), and draft Environmental Impact Statement 
(EIS) for public review and comment. We, the Fish and Wildlife Service 
(Service), are considering the issuance of a 50-year incidental take 
permit (permit) for 27 species in response to receipt of an application 
prepared by Tejon Ranch Corporation (Tejon or Applicant) pursuant to 
section 10(a)(1)(B) of the Endangered Species Act of 1973, as amended 
(Act). The permit is needed because take of species could occur within 
141,886 acres of covered lands on the Tejon Ranch as the result of on-
going ranch activities and approximately 5,533 acres of mountain resort 
and other development within and adjacent to the Interstate 5 corridor 
and Lebec community in Kern County, California. The MSHCP proposes a 
conservation strategy to minimize and mitigate to the maximum extent 
practicable any impacts that could occur to covered species as the 
result of the covered activities.

DATES: Written comments must be received on or before May 5, 2009.

ADDRESSES: Written comments may be submitted to Mary Grim, Section 10 
Program Coordinator, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, 2800 Cottage Way, 
W-2605, Sacramento, CA 95825. Comments may also be sent by e-mail to 

FOR FURTHER INFORMATION CONTACT: Steve Kirkland, U.S. Fish and Wildlife 
Service, at 805-644-1766.


Availability of Documents

    Individuals wishing to receive copies of the application, draft 
HCP, draft EIS, and draft IA, should contact the Service by telephone 
(see FOR FURTHER INFORMATION CONTACT). Copies of the subject documents 
are also available for public inspection during regular business hours 
at the Ventura Fish and Wildlife Office [see FOR FURTHER INFORMATION 
CONTACT], and may be downloaded from the Ventura Fish and Wildlife 
Office Web site at: http://www.fws.gov/ventura/.


    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,

[[Page 6051]]

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 animal 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.
    Although take of listed plant species is not prohibited under the 
Act, and therefore cannot be authorized by an incidental take permit, 
plant species may be included on a permit in recognition of the 
conservation benefits provided to them by 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 17.32(b)(5)].
    We have received an application for an incidental take permit 
covering 27 listed and unlisted species that may be taken or otherwise 
affected by on-going ranch activities and future low density 
residential and commercial development activities on a portion of the 
Tejon Ranch. The potential impacts of take that could result from such 
covered activities would be avoided, minimized and mitigated as 
described in the Tehachapi Uplands Multiple Species Habitat 
Conservation Plan (plan) submitted as part of the incidental take 
permit application by Tejon. The Applicant has prepared the plan to 
satisfy the requirements for a section 10(a)(1)(B) permit under the 
    The Applicant seeks a 50-year incidental take permit for covered 
activities within 141,886 acres of covered lands on Tejon Ranch lands 
in Kern County, California. Activities covered by the permit would 
include ongoing activities that have historically occurred at the 
Ranch, such as grazing and film production, as well as planned future 
community development of approximately 5,533 acres within and adjacent 
to the Interstate-5 corridor in the Tejon Mountain Village Planning 
Area and the Lebec/Existing Headquarters area, and take minimization, 
mitigation and conservation measures provided under the MSHCP. The 
permit would not cover hunting or mineral extraction.
    Species proposed for coverage in the MSHCP are species that are 
currently listed as federally threatened or endangered or have the 
potential to become listed during the term of the permit and have some 
likelihood to occur within the plan area. Several of the species 
proposed for coverage are also listed under the California Endangered 
Species Act or identified as Fully Protected species or species of 
special concern under state law. Should any of the 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. Twenty-one animal species and six plant species are known 
or have the potential to occur within the plan area and are proposed to 
be covered by the permit (Covered Species). The permit would include 
the following federally listed animal species: California condor 
(Gymnogyps californianus--federally listed as endangered and state 
listed as endangered and fully protected), least Bell's vireo (Vireo 
bellii pusillus--federally and state listed as endangered), 
southwestern willow flycatcher (Empidonax traillii extimus--federally 
and state listed as endangered), and Valley elderberry longhorn beetle 
(Democerus californicus dimorphus--federally listed as threatened). The 
permit would also include the following species currently unlisted 
under the Act: Western yellow-billed cuckoo (Coccyzus americanus 
occidentalis--federal candidate for listing and state listed as 
endangered); Tehachapi slender salamander (Batrachoseps stebbinsi--
state listed as threatened), bald eagle (Haliaeetus leucocephalus--
state listed as endangered), American peregrine falcon (Falco 
peregrinus anatum--state listed as endangered and fully protected), 
little willow flycatcher (Empidonax traillii brewsteri--state listed as 
endangered), golden eagle (Aquila chrysaetos--state species of special 
concern and fully protected), white-tailed kite (Elanus leucurus--state 
fully protected), ringtail (Bassariscus astutus--state fully 
protected), tricolored blackbird (Agelaius tricolor--state species of 
concern), Tehachapi pocket mouse (Perognathus alticola inexpectatus--
state species of concern), burrowing owl (Athene cunicularia--state 
species of concern), yellow-blotched salamander (Ensatina eschscholtzii 
croceater--state species of concern), western spadefoot (Spea 
hammondii--state species of concern), purple martin (Progne subis--
state species of concern), yellow warbler (Dendroica petechia 
brewsteri--state species of concern), coast horned lizard (Phrynosoma 
coronatum (both frontale and blainvillii populations)--state species of 
concern), two-striped garter snake (Thamnophis hammondii--state species 
of concern), round-leaved filaree (Erodium macrophyllum), Fort Tejon 
woolly sunflower (Eriophyllum lanatum var. hallii), Kusche's sandwort 
(Arenaria macradenia var. kuschei), Tehachapi buckwheat (Eriogonum 
callistum), striped adobe lily (Fritillaria striata--state listed as 
threatened), and Tejon poppy (Eschscholzia lemmonii ssp. kernensis).
    The MSHCP includes a conservation strategy intended to avoid, 
minimize and mitigate to the maximum extent practicable any impacts 
that would occur to covered species as the result of the covered 
activities. Under the plan, and consistent with the Tejon Ranch 
Conservation and Land Use Agreement between Tejon and the Sierra Club, 
National Audubon Society, Natural Resources Defense Council, Endangered 
Habitats League, and Planning and Conservation League, no land 
development would be allowed within approximately 93,522 acres of 
Covered Lands, including the approximately 37,100-acre Tunis and 
Winters ridge area, which is designated as the Condor Study Area under 
the plan and is the area of the ranch most likely to be frequented by 
condors. An additional 23,001 acres would be preserved as open space 
within the Tejon Mountain Village planning area, resulting in the 
permanent conservation of approximately 82 percent of the Covered Lands 
(MSHCP Mitigation Lands). Upon initiation of construction of the Tejon 
Mountain Village development, the MSCHP requires that the MSHCP 
Mitigation Lands be permanently protected by phased recordation of 
conservation easements or equivalent legal restrictions over all such 
lands by the end of the permit term. The MSCHP also requires 
implementation of general and species-specific take avoidance, 
minimization and mitigation measures to reduce potential impacts to the 
covered species. With regard to the California condor, the plan 
requires the ongoing monitoring of covered activities by a qualified 
biologist to reduce the potential for any human/condor interactions and 
the permanent enforcement of covenants, conditions and restrictions on 
residential development to minimize any impacts to condors. The plan 
also provides funding for condor capture, care and relocation in the 
unlikely event that a condor becomes habituated to human activities and 
includes a

[[Page 6052]]

supplemental feeding program for condors. No lethal take of condors 
would be authorized under the permit.

National Environmental Policy Act Compliance

    The Service's proposed issuance of an incidental take permit is a 
federal action and triggers the need for compliance with the National 
Environmental Policy Act (NEPA). The Service has prepared a draft EIS 
that evaluates the impacts of proposed issuance of the permit and 
implementation of the MSHCP, and also evaluates the impacts of a 
reasonable range of alternatives.
    The draft EIS analyzes three alternatives in addition to the 
proposed MSHCP, summarized above. The Service has identified the 
proposed MSHCP as the Preferred Alternative. Additional alternatives 
are described below.
    No Action/No MSHCP Alternative: The No Action/No MSHCP Alternative 
allows for development in areas where the Service believes that no take 
of federally listed species is likely to occur and thus no ITP is 
required. The No Action/No MSHCP Alternative generally includes ongoing 
Ranch uses as well as development of the Covered Lands that could occur 
consistent with the Kern County General Plan--Land Use Designations on 
the approximately 56,922 acres of the Covered Lands that are outside of 
the CSA and a two-mile buffer area around the CSA. This Alternative 
provides for development of up to 5,897 residential units and 6,512,200 
square feet of commercial space.
    Condor HCP Alternative: The Condor HCP Alternative would result in 
the issuance of an ITP covering only the California condor. No 
development would occur within the CSA for the 50-year term of the ITP, 
but permanent conservation easements would not be recorded within the 
CSA or elsewhere within the Covered Lands. This alternative would not 
include the comprehensive protective measures that would apply to all 
of the Covered Species in the Proposed MSHCP Alternative. The Condor 
HCP Alternative would include the same type and density of development 
within the Tejon Mountain Village Plan area and Lebec/Headquarters area 
as is included in the Proposed MSHCP Alternative, but would also 
include development consistent with the Kern County General Plan--Land 
Use Designations in all other portions of the Covered Lands except for 
the CSA. This Alternative provides for development of up to 7,100 
residential units and 4,940,710 square feet of commercial space 
    MSHCP General Plan Buildout Alternative: The MSHCP General Plan 
Buildout Alternative would include issuance of an ITP for the five 
federally listed species identified above. Development in the 
locations, densities and intensities allowed under the current Kern 
County General Plan--Land Use Designations would be covered, except 
that no development would be allowed in the CSA during the term of the 
ITP. This Alternative provides for development of up to 8,752 
residential units and 6,762,690 square feet of commercial space 

Public Comments

    If you wish to comment on the permit application, draft MSHCP, 
draft IA, or draft EIS, you may submit your comments to the address 
listed in the ADDRESSES section of this document. 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.
    The Service will evaluate the application, associated documents, 
and comments submitted to them to prepare a final 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 Decision.
    This notice is provided pursuant to section 10(a) of the Act and 
pursuant to implementing regulations for NEPA (40 CFR 1506.6).

    Dated: January 29, 2009.
Ken McDermond,
Deputy Regional Director, California and Nevada Region, Sacramento, 
[FR Doc. E9-2303 Filed 2-3-09; 8:45 am]