[Federal Register Volume 77, Number 208 (Friday, October 26, 2012)]
[Pages 65398-65401]
From the Federal Register Online via the Government Printing Office [www.gpo.gov]
[FR Doc No: 2012-26169]



Fish and Wildlife Service

[FWS-R8-2012-N220; FF08E00000-FXES11120800000-134]

Tehachapi Uplands Multiple Species Habitat Conservation Plan; 
Kern County, CA; Final Environmental Impact Statement

AGENCY: Fish and Wildlife Service, Interior.

ACTION: Notice of availability.


SUMMARY: The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service announces the availability 
for public review of a final Environmental Impact Statement (EIS), 
Tehachapi Uplands Multiple Species habitat Conservation Plan (TU 
MSHCP), and Implementing Agreement (IA), related to an application by 
Tejon Ranchcorp (Tejon or applicant) for an Incidental Take Permit (ITP 
or permit) pursuant to the Endangered Species Act (Act). The final 
documents reflect changes made to the 2011 Supplemental Draft EIS and 
TU MSHCP/IA resulting from comments received during the 90-day public 
comment period. Responses to comments from the 2011 comment period are 
included in the EIS. This notice provides an opportunity for the public 
to review the final documents and responses to comments. The proposed 
50-year ITP would authorize incidental take of 27 species associated 
with plan-wide activities and limited development activities on 
portions of Tejon Ranch.

DATES: Written comments must be received by 5 p.m. Pacific Time, 
November 26, 2012.

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ADDRESSES: Obtaining Documents: You may download copies of the EIS, 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 Uplands 
MSHCP/EIS 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 Uplands MSHCP/EIS Comments.
    Hard bound copies of the EIS, 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: David Simmons, 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 plan-wide activities and future low-density residential and 
commercial development activities on a portion of the Tejon Ranch 
(Ranch). The applicant has prepared the TU MSHCP to satisfy the 
requirements for a section 10(a)(1)(B) 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 the impacts 
of any incidental taking 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 in Kern 
County, California. Proposed covered activities include plan-wide 
activities, which consist of both ongoing activities that have 
historically occurred at the Ranch, such as grazing and film 
production, and new activities, including limited public access for 
passive recreational purposes. Up to 200 acres could be disturbed to 
facilitate plan-wide activities. Proposed covered activities also 
include 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. The permit would also cover take minimization, mitigation and 
conservation measures provided under the TU MSHCP and intended to 
minimize and mitigate the effect of take to the maximum extent 
practicable. 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 covered lands. 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 known to occur or having the potential to occur within the 
covered lands 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-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,

[[Page 65400]]

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 TU MSHCP, 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 (Ranchwide 
Agreement), no land development would be allowed within approximately 
93,522 acres of the covered lands that constitute the mitigation lands, 
including the approximately 37,100-acre Tunis and Winters ridge area. 
The Tunis and Winters ridge area is designated as the Condor Study Area 
under the TU MSHCP and is the area of the ranch most likely to be 
frequented by condors. An additional 23,001 acres would be preserved as 
mitigation lands within the open space within the Tejon Mountain 
Village Planning Area, resulting in the permanent conservation of 
approximately 82 percent of the covered lands. In addition to the TU 
MSHCP mitigation lands, approximately 12,795 acres of covered lands are 
subject to existing conservation easements acquired pursuant to the 
Ranchwide Agreement and are required to be managed in accordance with 
the TU MSHCP. In total, approximately 91 percent of the covered lands 
would be permanently conserved under the TU MSHCP and Ranchwide 
    Upon initiation of construction of the Tejon Mountain Village 
development, the TU MSCHP requires that the TU 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 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 TU MSHCP 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 TU MSHCP 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; 42 U.S.C. 4321 et seq.). The Service 
has prepared an EIS 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 Final EIS analyzes 
four alternatives in addition to the proposed TU MSHCP, summarized 
above. The Service has identified the proposed TU MSHCP as the 
preferred alternative. The proposed TU MSHCP alternative and the 
remaining four alternatives are summarized below.
    The proposed TU MSHCP alternative, described above, generally 
remains the same as described in the 2011 Supplemental Draft EIS. It 
has been updated to reflect approved mitigation measures required by 
the county and the State; to reflect clarifications made to the covered 
species mitigation measures proposed in the applicant's revised TU 
MSHCP; to reflect information related to the final location of two 
communication towers; to clarify the number of hunting cabins allowed 
on covered lands; and to update various acreages associated with the 
revised TU MSHCP. Where appropriate, we added information and required 
mitigation measures associated with the TMV project approvals to the 
Supplemental Draft EIS.
    The no-action alternative, for the purposes of analysis, remains 
the same as described in the 2011 Supplemental Draft EIS and 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 condor-only HCP alternative generally remains the same as 
described in the 2011 Supplemental Draft EIS and continues to represent 
a species management approach that addresses only the California 
condor. Take of other federally listed species would be avoided under 
this alternative through project-specific review and approvals, and by 
siting development in a manner that avoids occurrences of the species. 
Development and open space preservation would be consistent with those 
elements described in the Proposed TU MSHCP Alternative. Plan-wide 
activities would also be the same as those described in the proposed TU 
MSHCP alternative, except that all management and mitigation elements 
would be limited to California condor-related measures as set forth in 
the proposed TU MSHCP alternative. Similarly, the conservation measures 
and adaptive management elements of the condor-only HCP alternative 
would be limited solely to those for the California condor set forth in 
the proposed TU MSHCP alternative.
    The condor critical habitat (CCH) avoidance MSHCP alternative 
remains the same as described in the 2011 Supplemental Draft EIS. Plan-
wide activities would continue and the proposed development areas 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, and in other 
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 setbacks and general boundaries provided in that agreement.
    The Kern County General Plan Buildout alternative remains the same 
as presented in the 2011 Supplemental Draft EIS. 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, the 
agreement 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 remote the likelihood that the Ranchwide Agreement would be 
terminated, for purposes of comprehensive NEPA analysis, this

[[Page 65401]]

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 lands.
    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 
additional Kern County approval, and the EIS analysis assumes that 
development would proceed on a project-by-project basis and that the 
Service would issue incidental take authorization as appropriate 
through either section 7 of the Act or the section 10 process under the 

Public Involvement

    We published a Notice of Intent (NOI) to prepare an EIS for a 
California Condor Habitat Conservation Plan (Condor HCP) in the Federal 
Register on June 25, 2004 (69 FR 35663). The NOI announced a 
30[hyphen]day public scoping period that ended on July 26, 2004. On 
March 26, 2008, a NOI to prepare an EIS for the TU MSHCP was published 
in the Federal Register (73 FR 16052). The NOI announced a 
30[hyphen]day public scoping period that ended on April 25, 2008. We 
published a revised notice of intent (NOI) to prepare an EIS for this 
project in the Federal Register on June 4, 2008 (73 FR 31876); this NOI 
clarified the proposed action and corrected a posting error in the 
March 2008 NOI. On February 4, 2009, we published a notice of 
availability of the Draft Plan, EIS, and IA in the Federal Register (74 
FR 6050). The Draft documents were initially available for a 90-day 
public comment period, which was extended, with a Notice of a 
60[hyphen]day Extension issued on May 5, 2009. On February 3, 2012, we 
published a notice of availability of the Supplemental Draft EIS, Plan 
and IA in the Federal Register (77 FR 5564). The Supplemental Draft 
documents were available for a 90-day public comment period, which 
concluded on May 3, 2012.

Public Review

    Copies of the Final EIS, TU MSHCP, and IA are available for review 
(see ADDRESSES). Any comments we receive will become part of the 
administrative record and will be available to the public. 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. If you wish us to withhold your 
name and/or address, you must state this prominently at the beginning 
of your comment. 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.


    We will evaluate the application, associated documents, and 
comments submitted to determine whether the application meets the 
requirements of section 10(a) of the Act. A permit decision will be 
made no sooner than 30 days after the publication of the Environmental 
Protection Agency's notice of the EIS in the Federal Register and 
completion of a 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: October 16, 2012.
 Alexandra Pitts,
Deputy Regional Director, Pacific Southwest Region, Sacramento, 
[FR Doc. 2012-26169 Filed 10-25-12; 8:45 am]