[Federal Register: December 29, 1999 (Volume 64, Number 249)]
[Page 73060-73062]
From the Federal Register Online via GPO Access [wais.access.gpo.gov]



Fish and Wildlife Service

Availability of an Environmental Assessment and Finding of No 
Significant Impact, and Receipt of an Application for an Incidental 
Take Permit for a Proposed Commercial Development Called Mangrove Bay, 
Palm Beach County, FL

AGENCY: Fish and Wildlife Service, Interior.

ACTION: Notice.


SUMMARY: Senior Lifestyle Jupiter Corporation and The Mangrove Bay 
Master Limited Partnership (Applicants) request an incidental take 
permit (Permit) pursuant to section 10(a)(1)(B) of the Endangered 
Species Act of 1973 (U.S.C. 1531 et seq.), as amended (Act). The 
Applicants anticipate taking one family of the threatened Florida 
scrub-jay (Aphelocoma coerulescens) incidentally to the clearing of 
land associated with the development of an assisted-care living 
facility. The proposed commercial development will occur in section 8, 
Township 41 South, Range 43 East, in the town of Jupiter, Palm Beach 
County, Florida.
    The clearing of the property for commercial construction will 
destroy habitat occupied by the Florida scrub-jay (scrub-jay). A more 
detailed description of the mitigation and minimization measures to 
address the effects of the Project to the protected species are 
outlined in the Applicant's Habitat Conservation Plan (Plan), the 
Service's draft Environmental Assessment (EA), and in the SUPPLEMENTARY 
INFORMATION section below.
    The Service also announces the availability of the draft EA and 
Plan for the incidental take application. Copies of the draft EA and/or 
Plan may be obtained by making a request to the Regional Office (see 
ADDRESSES). Requests must be in writing to be processed. This notice 
also advises the public that the Service has made a preliminary 
determination that issuing the Permit is not a major Federal action 
significantly affecting the quality of the human environment within the 
meaning of Section 102(2)(C) of the National Environmental Policy Act 
of 1969, as amended (NEPA). The preliminary Finding of No Significant 
Impact (FONSI) is based on information contained in the EA and Plan. 
The final determination will be made no sooner than 30 days from the 
date of this notice. This notice is provided pursuant to Section 10 of 
the Act and NEPA regulations (40 CFR 1506.6).
    The Service specifically requests information, views, and opinions 
from the public via this Notice on the Federal action, including the 
identification of any other aspects of the human environment not 
already identified in the Service's EA. Further, the Service 
specifically solicits information regarding the adequacy of the Plan as 
measured against the Service's Permit issuance criteria found in 50 CFR 
Parts 13 and 17.
    If you wish to comment, you may submit comments by any one of 
several methods. You may mail comments to the Service's Regional Office 
(see ADDRESSES). You may also comment via the internet to 
``david__dell@fws.gov''. Please submit comments over the internet as an 
ASCII file avoiding the use of special characters and any form of 
encryption. Please also include your name and return address in your 
internet message. If you do not receive a confirmation from the Service 
that we have received your internet message, contact us directly at 
either telephone number listed below (see FURTHER INFORMATION). 
Finally, you may hand deliver comments to either Service office listed 
below (see ADDRESSES). Our practice is to make comments, including 
names and home addresses of respondents, available for public review 
during regular business hours. Individual respondents may request that 
we withhold their home address from the administrative record. We will 
honor such requests to the extent allowable by law. There may also be 
other circumstances in which we would withhold from the administrative 
record a respondent's identity, as allowable by law. If you wish us to 
withhold your name and address, you must state this prominently at the 
beginning of your comments. We will not; however, consider anonymous 
comments. We will make all submissions from organizations or 
businesses, and from individuals identifying themselves as 
representatives or officials of organizations or businesses, available 
for public inspection in their entirety.

DATES: Written comments on the Permit application, draft EA, and Plan 
should be sent to the Service's Regional Office (see ADDRESSES) and 
should be received on or before January 28, 2000.

ADDRESSES: Persons wishing to review the application, Plan, and draft 
EA may obtain a copy by writing the Service's Southeast Regional 
Office, Atlanta, GA. Documents will also be available for public 
inspection by appointment during normal business hours at the Regional 
Office, 1875 Century Boulevard, Suite 200, Atlanta, Georgia

[[Page 73061]]

30345 (Attn: Endangered Species Permits), or Field Supervisor, U.S. 
Fish and Wildlife Service, Post Office Box 2676, Vero Beach, FL. 32961-
2676. Written data or comments concerning the application, draft EA, or 
Plan should be submitted to the Regional Office. Requests for the 
documentation must be in writing to be processed. Comments must be 
submitted in writing to be adequately considered in the Service's 
decision-making process. Please reference permit number TE020656-0 in 
such comments, or in requests of the documents discussed herein.

FOR FURTHER INFORMATION CONTACT: Mr. David Dell, Regional Coordinator, 
(see ADDRESSES above), telephone: 404/679-7313, facsimile: 404/679-
7081; or Mr. Mike Jennings, Fish and Wildlife Biologist, South Florida 
Field Office, Vero Beach, Florida (see ADDRESSES above), telephone: 

SUPPLEMENTARY INFORMATION: The Florida scrub-jay (scrub-jay) is 
geographically isolated from other species of scrub-jays found in 
Mexico and the western United States. The scrub-jay is found 
exclusively in peninsular Florida and is restricted to xeric uplands 
(predominately in oak dominated scrub). Increasing urban and 
agricultural development have resulted in habitat loss and 
fragmentation which has adversely affected the distribution and numbers 
of scrub-jays. The total estimated population is between 7,000 and 
11,000 individuals.
    The decline in the number and distribution of scrub-jays in 
southeastern Florida has been greater than in most other regions of the 
State. Southeastern Florida has experienced tremendous urban growth in 
the past 50 years and much of this commerical and residential 
development has occured on the dry soils which historically supported 
scrub-jay habitat. Based on existing soils data, much of the historic 
and current scrub-jay habitat of coastal east Florida occurs along a 
narrow stretch of historic sand dunes situated on a north-south axis 
from Dade to Flagler County. Much of this area of Florida was settled 
early because few wetlands restricted urban and agricultural 
development. Due to the effects of urban and agricultural development 
over the past 100 years, much of the remaining scrub-jay habitat is now 
relatively small and isolated. What remains is largely degraded due to 
the suppression of the wildfires that maintained xeric uplands in 
conditions suitable for scrub-jays.
    Scrub-jays using the Project site and adjacent lands are considered 
part of a larger complex of scrub-jays that occupy xeric uplands of 
southeastern Florida. This complex of scrub-jay families ranges from 
about eastcentral Martin County south to northeastern Palm Beach 
County. The majority of scrub-jays within this complex are found within 
Jonathan Dickinson State Park which is located about 10 miles north of 
the Project site. The continued survival of scrub-jays in this area may 
depend on the maintenance of suitable habitat and the restoration of 
unsuitable habitat in northeastern Palm Beach and southeastern Martin 
    Scrub-jay use of the Project site and adjacent lands has been 
assessed on two occasions. In February 1998, field investigations 
determined that one scrub-jay family comprising three individual birds 
used portions of the Project site as well as adjacent lands. Systematic 
surveys conducted in April 1998 documented use of about 2.7 acres of 
suitable habitat within the Project site by one family represented by 
two individual birds.
    The Project site represents one of the few remaining undeveloped 
parcels east of the Intracoastal Waterway in northern Palm Beach County 
that provides habitat for the scrub-jay. Several tracts of public 
conservation lands are also located in the vicinity of the Project 
site, but much of the remaining landbase has been developed for 
commercial or residential uses. The Project site is bounded on three 
sides by urban development and the site itself has been negatively 
influenced by previous land clearing activities, off-road vehicle use, 
and invasion by exotic species. Due to the proximity of the Project 
site to existing residential and commercial development, fire has been 
actively excluded because of safety concerns. As a result, the 
condition of the xeric habitat within the Project site is degraded; 
periodic fire or land management practices that mimic fire are required 
to maintain habitat conditions suitable for the scrub-jay.
    Land clearing in preparation for commerical construction will 
destroy habitat and result in death of, or injury to, scrub-jays, 
incidentally to the carrying out of these otherwise lawful activities. 
Habitat alteration associated with the proposed commerical development 
will reduce the availability of feeding, nesting, and sheltering 
habitat for scrub-jays.
    The Applicant's Plan and the Service's draft EA describe the 
following minimization and mitigation strategy to be employed by the 
Applicants to offset the impacts of the Project to the scrub-jay:
    <bullet> The Applicants agree to preserve, restore, and manage 1.77 
acres of scrub-jay habitat within the project site.
    <bullet> The Applicants agree to avoid disturbance to occupied 
scrub-jay habitat during the nesting season.
    <bullet> The Applicants agree to further minimize impacts by using 
native xeric plants for ornamental purposes through the commerical 
facility when completed.
    <bullet> The Applicants agree to avoid land clearing activities 
during the scrub-jay nesting season.
    <bullet> The Applicants agree to compensate for the unavoidable 
destruction of 1.67 acres of occupied scrub-jay habitat by providing 
funding in the amount of $124,093 to acquire and manage scrub-jay 
habitat in southeastern Florida, conduct public outreach, and/or fund 
research, as specified by the Service.
    <bullet> In the event the on-site preserve is not occupied by 
scrub-jays within three years following completion of the commerical 
construction, the Applicants also agree to provide additional funding 
in the amount of $93,465 to acquire and manage scrub-jay habitat in 
southeastern Florida, conduct public outreach, and/or fund research, as 
specified by the Service.
    The draft EA considers the environmental consequences of one action 
alternative which would require issuance of a Permit. The no action 
alternative (not issue the Permit) will ultimately result in loss of 
scrub-jay habitat within the Project site due to habitat degradation. 
The no action alternative may also expose the Applicants under Section 
9 of the Act. The preferred alternative would affect about 1.67 acres 
of occupied scrub-jay habitat while protecting and enhancing 1.77 acres 
of habitat on-site. Additional scrub-jay habitat would also be acquired 
in the future and managed with the funding provided by the Applicants.
    The proposed action alternative is issuance of the Permit according 
to the Plan as submitted and described above. Under the proposed 
alternative, the effect of the proposed minimization and mitigation 
measures will be the protection, restoration, and management of 1.77 
acres of scrub-jay habitat within the Project site that will provide 
habitat for nesting, foraging, and shelter and stop-over habitat for 
dispersing birds. With management of on-site habitat, existing 
conditions may improve over the long-term for scrub-jays in the 
vicinity. The contribution of mitigation funding will provide the 
Service opportunities to protect and manage other suitable habitat in 
southeastern Florida. Mitigation funding will likely be used in 
combination with other

[[Page 73062]]

matching sources of money to target the purchase of larger tracts of 
habitat. As a result, the immediate acquistion of habitat with the 
mitigation funding provided by the Applicant is not anticipated.
    However, any future acquistion made with all or portions of this 
funding is expected to benefit scrub-jays since habitat protection and 
management has been identified as one of the most important 
conservation tasks for this species.
    As stated above, the Service has made a preliminary determination 
that the issuance of the Permit is not a major Federal action 
significantly affecting the quality of the human environment within the 
meaning of section 102(2)(C) of NEPA. This preliminary information may 
be revised due to public comment received in response to this notice 
and is based on information contained in the draft EA and Plan.
    The Service will also evaluate whether the issuance of a section 
10(a)(1)(B) Permit complies with Section 7 of the Act by conducting an 
intra-Service Section 7 consultation. The results of the biological 
opinion, in combination with the above findings, will be used in the 
final analysis to determine whether or not to issue the Permit.

    Dated: December 22, 1999.
Judy L. Jones,
Acting Regional Director.
[FR Doc. 99-33738 Filed 12-28-99; 8:45 am]