[Federal Register Volume 77, Number 23 (Friday, February 3, 2012)]
[Pages 5564-5566]
From the Federal Register Online via the Government Printing Office [www.gpo.gov]
[FR Doc No: 2012-2294]

[[Page 5564]]



Fish and Wildlife Service

[FWS-R8-2011-N270; FF08E00000-FXES11120800000F2-112]

Tehachapi Uplands Multiple Species Habitat Conservation Plan; 
Kern County, CA

AGENCY: Fish and Wildlife Service, Interior.

ACTION: Notice of availability of Supplemental Draft Environmental 
Impact Statement.


SUMMARY: The Fish and Wildlife Service (Service) announces the 
availability of a Supplemental Draft Environmental Impact Statement 
(SDEIS) for the Tehachapi Uplands Multiple Species Habitat Conservation 
Plan (TU MSHCP) and the draft TU MSHCP and Implementing Agreement (IA), 
for public review and comment. The SDEIS updates the analysis presented 
in the 2009 Draft EIS on the TU MSHCP, which we released for public 
comment on February 4, 2009. Specifically, the SDEIS addresses comments 
on the 2009 Draft EIS, and considers a 2010 analysis by the U.S. 
Geological Survey on occurrence of California condor in and around the 
TU MSHCP Covered Lands. We 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 the Endangered Species Act of 1973, as amended 

DATES: Written comments must be received by on or before May 3, 2012.

ADDRESSES: Obtaining Documents: You may download copies of the SDEIS, 
TU MSHCP and IA on the Internet at http://www.fws.gov/ventura/. 
Alternatively, you may use one of the methods below to request hard 
copies or a CD-ROM of the documents.
    Submitting Comments: You may submit comments or requests for copies 
or more information by one of the following methods.
     Email: [fw8tumshcp@fws.gov]. Include ``Tehachapi Upland 
Draft MSHCP/SEIS Comments'' in the subject line of the message.
     U.S. Mail: Roger Root, Assistant Field Supervisor, U.S. 
Fish and Wildlife Service, 2493 Portola Road, Suite B, Ventura, CA 
     In-Person Drop-off, Viewing, or Pickup: Call (805) 644-
1766 to make an appointment during regular business hours at the above 
     Fax: Roger Root, Assistant Field Supervisor, (805) 644-
3958, Attn.: Tehachapi Upland Draft MSHCP/SEIS Comments.
    Hard bound copies of the SDEIS, TU MSHCP, and IA are available for 
viewing at the following locations:
    1. U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, 2493 Portola Road, Suite B, 
Ventura, CA 93003.
    2. Kern County Library, Frazier Park Branch, 3732 Park Drive, 
Frazier Park, CA 93225.

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



    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 Applicant has prepared the plan to satisfy the 
requirements for a section 10(a)(1)(B) permit (``permit'') under the 
Act (16 U.S.C. 1531 et seq.). The permit is requested to authorize the 
incidental take of species that could potentially result from plan-wide 
activities occurring throughout the 141,886 acres of lands proposed to 
be covered by the permit (``covered lands''), and from approximately 
5,533 acres of mountain resort and other development within and 
adjacent to the Interstate 5 corridor and Lebec community within the 
covered lands in Kern County, California. The TU 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.


    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 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)].
    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 TU MSHCP. The 
permit would not cover hunting or mineral extraction.
    Species proposed for coverage in the TU 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. 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 listed as endangered), southwestern willow 
flycatcher (Empidonax traillii extimus--federally 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-

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billed cuckoo (Coccyzus americanus occidentalis--Federal candidate for 
listing); Tehachapi slender salamander (Batrachoseps stebbinsi ), bald 
eagle (Haliaeetus leucocephalus), American peregrine falcon (Falco 
peregrinus anatum), little willow flycatcher (Empidonax traillii 
brewsteri), golden eagle (Aquila chrysaetos), white-tailed kite (Elanus 
leucurus), ringtail (Bassariscus astutus), tricolored blackbird 
(Agelaius tricolor), Tehachapi pocket mouse (Perognathus alticola 
inexpectatus), burrowing owl (Athene cunicularia), yellow-blotched 
salamander (Ensatina eschscholtzii croceater), western spadefoot (Spea 
hammondii), purple martin (Progne subis), yellow warbler (Dendroica 
petechia brewsteri), coast horned lizard) (Phrynosoma coronatum (both 
frontale and blainvillii populations), two-striped garter snake 
(Thamnophis hammondii), 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), and 
Tejon poppy (Eschscholzia lemmonii ssp. kernensis).
    The TU 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 
(TU MSHCP Mitigation Lands).
    Upon initiation of construction of the Tejon Mountain Village 
development, the TU MSCHP requires that the 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 TU 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. 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 SDEIS that 
evaluates the impacts of proposed issuance of the permit and 
implementation of the TU MSHCP, and also evaluates the impacts of a 
reasonable range of alternatives.
    The SDEIS analyzes four alternatives in addition to the proposed TU 
MSHCP, summarized above. The Service has identified the proposed TU 
MSHCP as the Preferred Alternative. Additional alternatives are 
described below.
    The No Action Alternative (referred to as the No Action/No MSCHP 
Alternative in the 2009 Draft EIS) has been revised. For the purposes 
of analysis, this alternative now assumes that the Ranchwide Agreement 
would remain in effect, that development of the TMV Project and other 
future commercial or residential development allowed within the Covered 
Lands under the Ranchwide Agreement would not occur, and that Existing 
Ranch Uses would continue at current levels into the future. The 
conditions of approval for the TMV Project by Kern County identify 
certain actions to be undertaken by the Service, including directing 
the operation of a feeding station and capture of condors that have 
become habituated. The No Action Alternative does not assume future 
action on the part of the Service, including future action identified 
as a condition of Kern County's approval of the TMV Project. Instead, 
it is assumed the Service would continue to provide technical 
assistance to Tejon regarding the California condor.
    The proposed TU MSHCP Alternative generally remains the same as 
described in the 2009 Draft EIS. The alternative has been updated to 
reflect the TMV Project Approvals, including approved mitigation 
measures required by the County, to reflect clarifications made to the 
California condor mitigation measures proposed in the applicant's 
revised MSCHP, and to reflect that the options to purchase easements 
over the areas formerly referred to as Potential Open Space have been 
recorded per the terms of the Ranchwide Agreement (referred to as 
Existing Conservation Easement Areas). Where appropriate, we added 
information or required mitigation measures associated with the TMV 
Project approvals to the SDEIS.
    The Condor Only HCP Alternative continues to represent a species 
management approach that addresses only the California condor; the 
protection measures for the other federally listed species would be 
determined as a result of project-specific review and approval 
processes triggered by applicant requests. Like the Proposed TU MSHCP 
Alternative, the Condor Only HCP Alternative has been updated to 
reflect the TMV Project Approvals and to include the land conservation 
requirements contained in the Ranchwide Agreement. Under the Ranchwide 
Agreement, general plan development areas previously identified for the 
Condor Only HCP Alternative become Established Open Space Areas. 
Therefore, the development area under the Condor Only HCP Alternative 
is now the same as the development area under the Proposed TU MSHCP 
    A new alternative, the Condor Critical Habitat (CCH) Avoidance 
MSHCP Alternative, has been added to this SDEIS to address several 
public comments that proposed development areas be reconfigured to 
avoid federally designed critical habitat for California condor. Under 
this alternative, no commercial or residential development would occur 
in any designated critical habitat for California condor. The TMV 
Project would not occur, as that project would extend into California 
condor critical habitat. Instead, development would follow Kern County 
General Plan designations and would cluster most commercial and 
residential development in the southwestern portion of the Covered 
Lands, in the portion of the TMV Planning Area nearest to Interstate 5 
(I-5), and in areas outside condor critical habitat. The CCH Avoidance 
MSHCP Alternative also assumes implementation of the Ranchwide 
Agreement, where development boundaries outside critical habitat 
conform to the development

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setbacks and general boundaries provided in that agreement.
    The Kern County General Plan Buildout Alternative (referred to as 
the MSHCP General Plan Buildout Alternative in the 2009 Draft EIS) has 
also been revised. While the Ranchwide Agreement has resulted in the 
recordation of conservation easements on 12,795 acres of the Covered 
Lands (Existing Conservation Easement Areas), the remainder of the 
Covered Lands to be precluded from development under the Ranchwide 
Agreement do not currently have conservation easements recorded. As 
noted above, because the Ranchwide Agreement is a private agreement 
between parties and Service is not a party to and has no contractual 
standing under the agreement, it can be amended (or even terminated) by 
mutual agreement of the parties such that the land preservation outcome 
of the Ranchwide Agreement on Covered Lands may not be realized. While 
the Service considers the likelihood remote that the Ranchwide 
Agreement would be terminated, for purposes of comprehensive NEPA 
analysis, this alternative does not assume continuation of the 
Ranchwide Agreement except for the permanent protection of the already-
recorded conservation easements on the Existing Conservation Easement 
    Under the Kern County General Plan Buildout Alternative, 
development is assumed to proceed in accordance with the Kern County 
General Plan, including implementation of the TMV Project (per the TMV 
Project Approvals). Development of the Covered Lands would require Kern 
County approval, and the SDEIS assumes that it would proceed on a 
project-by-project basis and that the Service would issue incidental 
take authorization as appropriate through either the ESA Section 7 or 
Section 10 process.

Public Comments

    If you wish to comment on the permit application, SDEIS, TU MSHCP, 
or draft IA, you may submit your comments to the address listed in 
ADDRESSES. Before including your address, phone number, email 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 before preparing a final EIS. A permit decision 
will be made no sooner than 30 days after the final EIS is filed with 
EPA, published and the Record of Decision is completed.
    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 19, 2012.
 Alexandra Pitts,
Deputy Regional Director, Pacific Southwest Region, Sacramento, 
[FR Doc. 2012-2294 Filed 2-2-12; 8:45 am]