[Federal Register: January 31, 2000 (Volume 65, Number 20)]
[Page 4620-4622]
From the Federal Register Online via GPO Access [wais.access.gpo.gov]



Fish and Wildlife Service

Availability of an Environmental Assessment and Receipt of an 
Application for an Endangered Species Act Permit To Allow Incidental 
Take of the Coastal California Gnatcatcher by Evergreen Nursery, 
Oceanside, California

AGENCY:  Fish and Wildlife Service, Interior.

ACTION:  Notice of availability.


SUMMARY:  Evergreen Nursery has applied for an incidental take permit 
from the Fish and Wildlife Service pursuant to section 10(a)(1)(B) of 

[[Page 4621]]

Endangered Species Act of 1973, as amended. The proposed 15-year permit 
would authorize take of the threatened coastal California gnatcatcher 
(Polioptila californica californica; gnatcatcher) incidental to 
construction and operation of an 80.15-acre nursery in the City of 
Oceanside, San Diego County, California.
    The permit application includes a Habitat Conservation Plan and 
Implementation Agreement, both of which are available for public review 
and comment. The Environmental Assessment for proposed issuance of the 
permit also is available for review and comment. All comments on the 
permit application and Environmental Assessment will become part of the 
administrative record and may be released to the public.

DATES:  Written comments should be received on or before March 1, 2000.

ADDRESSES:  Comments should be addressed to Mr. Ken Berg, Field 
Supervisor, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, 2730 Loker Avenue West, 
Carlsbad, California 92008. Comments may be sent by facsimile to 
telephone 760-431-9618.

FOR FURTHER INFORMATION CONTACT:  Mr. Mark Elvin, Fish and Wildlife 
Biologist, at the above address or telephone 760-431-9440.


Document Availability

    If you would like copies of the documents for review, please 
contact the office listed above immediately. Documents also will be 
available for public inspection, by appointment, during normal business 
hours at the above address.


    Under Section 9 of the Endangered Species Act and its implementing 
regulations, taking of threatened and endangered wildlife species is 
prohibited. Under the Act, the term ``take'' means to harass, harm, 
pursue, hunt, shoot, wound, kill, capture or collect listed wildlife, 
or attempt to engage in such conduct. Harm includes habitat 
modification that kills or injures wildlife by significantly impairing 
essential behavioral patterns, including breeding, feeding, or 
sheltering. Under limited circumstances, the Service may issue permits 
to take threatened or endangered wildlife species if such taking is 
incidental to, and not the purpose of, otherwise lawful activities. 
Regulations governing permits for threatened and endangered species are 
found at 50 CFR 17.22 and 17.32.
    Evergreen Nursery is seeking an incidental take permit from the 
Service pursuant to section 10(a)(1)(B) of the Endangered Species Act 
of 1973, as amended. The permit would authorize incidental take of the 
federally threatened coastal California gnatcatcher for the proposed 
project. The site is also occupied by the endangered least Bells vireo 
(Vireo bellii pusillus); however, Evergreen Nursery has incorporated 
measures into its Habitat Conservation Plan to avoid take of this 
species. Therefore the permit would not authorize take of the vireo.
    The proposed project is located in the City of Oceanside 
immediately south of Oceanside Boulevard, east of El Camino Real, and 
west of Rancho del Oro. The proposed project consists of: (1) The 
construction and operation of a plant nursery on 80.15 acres; and (2) 
implementation of a Habitat Conservation Plan over a 15-year period. 
The Plan would establish and provide for management of a 29.66-acre 
conservation area on the project site, consisting of 24.0 acres of 
coastal sage scrub for the gnatcatcher and 5.66 acres of riparian 
habitat for the least Bells vireo. Evergreen Nursery would re-vegetate 
or enhance approximately 7 acres of coastal sage scrub habitat within 
the conservation area.
    Project features include two primary nursery areas where plants 
would be grown and sold, a sales and administration building, a 
maintenance building, a facility building, a compost production area, 
and a water collection pond. To access the south side of the site an 
approximately 100 foot-long bridge would be constructed over Loma Alta 
Creek (at the location of an existing road crossing) and over active 
railroad tracks. Existing flat and disturbed areas south of the 
railroad tracks would be used for plant growing and storage in 
containers. Existing dirt roads would be used for access.
    The Habitat Conservation Plan and the Environmental Assessment 
consider three alternatives to the proposed commercial development 
project: the no project alternative, the alternate location 
alternative, and the alternate plan designs alternative. Under the 
proposed project alternative, a permit would be issued for incidental 
take of the gnatcatcher. This alternative would result in the permanent 
loss of 4.11 acres of habitat that currently supports 3 gnatcatchers 
(one breeding pair, plus an unpaired male) within the 80.15-acre 
project site. This alternative would permanently preserve 29.66 acres 
of habitat for the gnatcatcher.
    Under the no project alternative, Evergreen Nursery would not apply 
for an incidental take permit, would not construct the proposed nursery 
on the site, and would not establish and manage a preserve for the 
threatened coastal California gnatcatcher. Present disturbance of the 
project area would continue in the form of trespassing in gnatcatcher-
occupied habitat, illegal dumping, erosion, and periodic fire. 
Considering the area is zoned for commercial use, it is likely that the 
area would eventually be developed for another commercial use.
    Under the alternate location alternative, Evergreen Nursery sought 
alternative sites for the proposed nursery within the county limits of 
San Diego County. The environmental consequences of developing some of 
these sites were not analyzed since none of the sites met the 
requirements that would allow for sale of nursery stock. The sites that 
did not meet the project goals would not have required a permit. One 
property that did meet the needs of the project was eliminated from 
consideration due to environmental concerns. Approximately 90 acres of 
the parcel lies in the San Luis Rey River basin. The remainder of the 
property is coastal sage scrub habitat on steep slopes. This site would 
have had greater impacts to sensitive and listed species than the 
proposed project and would have required the issuance of a permit.
    Evergreen Nursery also considered alternate plan designs to its 
project. This alternative would have resulted in greater impacts to 
sensitive and listed species than the proposed project. The open space 
preserve would have been smaller and the benefit to the gnatcatcher and 
vireo would have been less than the proposed project.
    This notice is provided pursuant to section 10(c) of the Endangered 
Species Act and pursuant to implementing regulations for the National 
Environmental Policy Act (40 CFR 1506.6). The Service will evaluate the 
permit application, associated documents, and comments submitted 
thereon to determine whether the application meets the requirements of 
National Environmental Policy Act regulations and section 10(a) of the 
Endangered Species Act. If we determine that the requirements are met, 
we will issue a permit for the incidental take of the gnatcatcher. Our 
final decision will not be completed until after the end of the 30-day 
comment period and will fully consider all public comments received 
during the comment period.

[[Page 4622]]

    Dated: January 19, 2000.
Daniel S. Walsworth,
Acting Manager, California/Nevada Operations Office, Fish and Wildlife 
Service, Sacramento, California.
[FR Doc. 00-1922 Filed 1-28-00; 8:45 am]