[Federal Register Volume 77, Number 117 (Monday, June 18, 2012)]
[Pages 36287-36289]
From the Federal Register Online via the Government Printing Office [www.gpo.gov]
[FR Doc No: 2012-14649]



Fish and Wildlife Service

[FWS-R8-ES-2012-N139: FF08ESMF00-FXES11120800000F2-123-F2]

Proposed Low-Effect Habitat Conservation Plan for the California 
Tiger Salamander, Calaveras County, CA

AGENCY: Fish and Wildlife Service, Interior.

ACTION: Notice of availability; request for comment.


SUMMARY: We, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, have received an 
application from Juan San Bartolome (applicant) for a 10-year 
incidental take permit for one species under the Endangered Species Act 
of 1973, as amended (Act). The application addresses the potential for 
``take'' of one listed animal, the threatened Central California 
Distinct Population Segment of the California tiger salamander (tiger 
salamander). The applicant would implement a conservation program to 
minimize and mitigate the project activities, as described in the 

[[Page 36288]]

low-effect habitat conservation plan (Plan). We request comments on the 
applicant's application and Plan, and the preliminary determination 
that the Plan qualifies as a ``low-effect'' habitat conservation plan, 
eligible for a categorical exclusion under the National Environmental 
Policy Act of 1969, as amended (NEPA). We discuss our basis for this 
determination in our environmental action statement (EAS), also 
available for public review.

DATES: We must receive written comments on or before July 18, 2012.

ADDRESSES: To request further information or submit written comments, 
please use one of the following methods, and note that your information 
request or comment is in reference to the Low-Effect Habitat 
Conservation Plan for the California Tiger Salamander, Calaveras 
County, California.
     U.S. Mail: Mike Thomas, Conservation Planning Division, 
U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, Sacramento Fish and Wildlife Office, 
2800 Cottage Way, W-2605, Sacramento, CA 95825.
     In-Person Drop-off, Viewing, or Pickup: Call 916-414-6600 
to make an appointment during regular business hours to drop off 
comments or view received comments at the above address.

FOR FURTHER INFORMATION CONTACT: Mike Thomas, Chief, Conservation 
Planning Division, or Eric Tattersall, Deputy Assistant Field 
Supervisor, at the address shown above or at 916-414-6600 (telephone). 
If you use a telecommunications device for the deaf, please call the 
Federal Information Relay Service at 800-877-8339.


Availability of Documents

    You may obtain copies of the permit application, plan, and EAS from 
the individuals in FOR FURTHER INFORMATION CONTACT. Copies of these 
documents are also available for public inspection, by appointment, 
during regular business hours, at the Sacramento Fish and Wildlife 
Office (see ADDRESSES).

Public Availability of Comments

    Before including your address, phone number, 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 in your 
comment to withhold your personal identifying information from public 
review, we cannot guarantee that we will be able to do so.

Background Information

    Section 9 of the Act prohibits taking of fish and wildlife species 
listed as endangered or threatened under section 4 of the Act. Under 
the Act, the term ``take'' means to harass, harm, pursue, hunt, shoot, 
wound, kill, trap, capture, or collect, or to attempt to engage in any 
such conduct. The term ``harm'' is defined in the regulations as 
significant habitat modification or degradation that results in death 
or injury of listed species by significantly impairing essential 
behavioral patterns, including breeding, feeding, or sheltering (50 CFR 
17.3). The term ``harass'' is defined in the regulations as to carry 
out actions that create the likelihood of injury to listed species to 
such an extent as to significantly disrupt normal behavioral patterns, 
which include, but are not limited to, breeding, feeding, or sheltering 
(50 CFR 17.3).
    However, under specified circumstances, the Service may issue 
permits that allow the take of federally listed species, provided that 
the take that occurs is incidental to, but not the purpose of, an 
otherwise lawful activity. Regulations governing permits for endangered 
and threatened species are at 50 CFR 17.22 and 17.32, respectively.
    Section 10(a)(1)(B) of the Act contains provisions for issuing such 
incidental take permits to non-Federal entities for the take of 
endangered and threatened species, provided the following criteria are 
    1. The taking will be incidental;
    2. The applicants will, to the maximum extent practicable, minimize 
and mitigate the impact of such taking;
    3. The applicants will develop a proposed HCP 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 applicants will carry out any other measures that the 
Service may require as being necessary or appropriate for the purposes 
of the HCP.
    The applicant seeks an incident take permit for covered activities 
within 109 acres of grassland associated with the construction of 15-
lot subdivision, with a minimum 5-acre parcel size, on the north side 
of Highway 12, in northwest Calaveras County, just west of Burson, 
California. The following federally listed species will be included as 
a covered species (covered species) in the applicants' proposed Plan:
     Central California Distinct Population Segment of the 
California tiger salamander (Ambystoma californiense) (threatened)
    The applicant would receive assurances under our ``No Surprises'' 
regulations (50 CFR 17.22(b)(5) and 17.32(b)(5)) for take of tiger 
    Covered activities include the following:
     Grading and ground leveling associated with construction 
of 15 residential homes,
     Vegetation removal and planting,
     Use of heavy equipment (not limited to bulldozers and 
     Erosion control structures (such as silt fencing and 
     Dust control (such as watering surface soils),
     Construction of driveways and roadways,
     Trenching and installation of utilities and irrigation 
systems, and
     Landscaping associated with all of the above activities 
and structures.
    The applicant proposes to avoid, minimize, and mitigate the effects 
to the covered species associated with the covered activities by fully 
implementing the Plan. Minimization measures will include, but are not 
limited to:
     An employee education program,
     Temporary construction fencing,
     A 15-mile per hour speed limit,
     Construction work time windows (i.e., to avoid the rainy 
season and nighttime work), and
     A deed restriction or conservation easement on 54 acres of 
the site for protection of tiger salamander upland habitat.
    The applicant proposes to build a 15-lot subdivision, with a 
minimum 5-acre parcel size. Thirteen of the lots would be between 5.0 
and 5.5 acres, one lot would be 9.0 acres, and the largest and most 
northerly lot would encompass 26.57 acres, including an existing pond 
that would be left undisturbed. The subdivision includes 15 single-
family residences with associated landscaping, utilities, and roadways.


    Our proposed action is approving the applicant's Plan and issuance 
of an incidental take permit for the applicant's covered activities. As 
required by the Act, the applicant's Plan considers alternatives to the 
take under the proposed action. The Plan considers the environmental 
consequences of two alternatives to the proposed action, the No Action 
Alternative and a Reduced Take Alternative. Under the No Action 
Alternative, we would not issue a permit; the applicant would not build 
the proposed subdivision, the on-site upland grassland habitat would 
not receive protection, and no take would occur for the construction of 

[[Page 36289]]

residence and its associated structures. For these reasons, the No-
Action Alternative has been rejected.
    Under the Reduced Take Alternative, we would issue an incidental 
take permit for the development of 10 residential units instead of the 
proposed 15. However, due to the relatively small project site 
dimensions, the County's zoning ordinance of a minimum 5-acre parcels, 
and infrastructure that would still be required by the landowner (e.g., 
roads, utilities, etc.) any further reduction in the number of lots 
would make the project economically unviable. In addition, even though 
this alternative would result in larger lot size and slightly less 
vehicular traffic due to the reduced number of homeowners, the impacts 
to the covered species relative to the increase in preserved upland 
habitat would be small. For these reasons, the Reduced Take Alternative 
was rejected.
    Under the Proposed Action Alternative, we would issue an incidental 
take permit for the applicant's proposed project, which includes the 
activities described above. The Proposed Action Alternative would 
result in permanent loss of 55 acres of upland grassland habitat for 
the California tiger salamander. To mitigate for these effects, the 
applicant proposes to protect, enhance, and manage in perpetuity 54 
acres of on-site grassland habitat.

National Environmental Policy Act

    As described in our EAS, we have made the preliminary determination 
that approval of the proposed Plan and issuance of the permit would 
qualify as a categorical exclusion under NEPA (42 U.S.C. 4321 et seq.), 
as provided by Federal regulations (40 CFR 1500, 5(k), 1507.3(b)(2), 
1508.4) and the Department of the Interior Manual (516 DM 2 and 516 DM 
8). Our EAS found that the proposed plan qualifies as a ``low-effect'' 
habitat conservation plan, as defined by our Habitat Conservation 
Planning Handbook (November 1996). Determination of low-effect habitat 
conservation plans is based on the following three criteria: (1) 
Implementation of the proposed plan would result in minor or negligible 
effects on federally-listed, proposed, and candidate species and their 
habitats; (2) implementation of the proposed plan would result in minor 
or negligible effects on other environmental values or resources; and 
(3) impacts of the plan, considered together with the impacts of other 
past, present, and reasonably foreseeable similarly situated projects, 
would not result, over time, in cumulative effects to environmental 
values or resources that would be considered significant. Based upon 
the preliminary determinations in the EAS, we do not intend to prepare 
further NEPA documentation. We will consider public comments when 
making the final determination on whether to prepare an additional NEPA 
document on the proposed action.

Public Comments

    We request data, comments, new information, or suggestions from the 
public, other concerned governmental agencies, the scientific 
community, Tribes, industry, or any other interested party on this 
notice. We particularly seek comments on the following:
    1. Biological information concerning the species;
    2. Relevant data concerning the species;
    3. Additional information concerning the range, distribution, 
population size, and population trends of the species;
    4. Current or planned activities in the subject area and their 
possible impacts on the species;
    5. The presence of archeological sites, buildings and structures, 
historic events, sacred and traditional areas, and other historic 
preservation concerns, which are required to be considered in project 
planning by the National Historic Preservation Act; and
    6. Identification of any other environmental issues that should be 
considered with regard to the proposed development and permit action.


    We provide this notice pursuant to section 10(c) of the Act and the 
NEPA public-involvement regulations (40 CFR 1500.1(b), 1500.2(d), and 
1506.6). We will evaluate the permit application, including the Plan, 
and comments we receive to determine whether the application meets the 
requirements of section 10(a) of the Act. If the requirements are met, 
we will issue a permit to the applicant for the incidental take of the 
Central California Distinct Population Segment of the California tiger 
salamander from the implementation of the covered activities described 
in the Low-Effect Habitat Conservation Plan for the California Tiger 
Salamander, Calaveras County, California. We will make the final permit 
decision no sooner than 30 days after the date of this notice.

    Dated: June 11, 2012.
Susan K. Moore,
Field Supervisor, Sacramento Fish and Wildlife Office, Sacramento, 
[FR Doc. 2012-14649 Filed 6-15-12; 8:45 am]