[Federal Register: January 31, 2000 (Volume 65, Number 20)]
[Page 4622-4623]
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 Incidental Take Permit for the Railroad Canyon-Lake 
Elsinore Partnership Tract 20704 in the City of Lake Elsinore, 
Riverside County, California

AGENCY:  Fish and Wildlife Service, Interior.

ACTION:  Notice of Availability.


SUMMARY:  The partnership of Railroad Canyon-Lake Elsinore (the 
Applicant) has applied to the Fish and Wildlife Service (Service) for 
an Incidental Take Permit (Permit) pursuant to section 10(a)(1)(B) of 
the Endangered Species Act of 1973, as amended (Act). The proposed 
permit would authorize take of the coastal California gnatcatcher 
(Polioptila californica californica) incidental to otherwise lawful 
activities in the City of Lake Elsinore, Riverside County, California. 
The proposed permit duration is 10 years.
    The application includes: (1) The proposed Habitat Conservation 
Plan (Plan), which fully describes the proposed project and the 
measures that the Applicant would undertake to minimize and mitigate 
anticipated take of the California gnatcatcher, as required in Section 
10(a)(2)(B) of the Act; and (2) the proposed Implementing Agreement. 
Activities covered by the requested Permit and addressed by the 
proposed Plan include the development of 120 undeveloped lots with 
Riversidian coastal sage scrub for residential use. This project would 
permanently eliminate 9.2 acres of suitable habitat for the California 
gnatcatcher. The Service also announces the availability of an 
Environmental Assessment for the permit application.
    This notice is provided pursuant to section 10(a) of the Act and 
National Environmental Policy Act regulations (40 CFR 1506.6). The 
Plan, Implementing Agreement, and the Environmental Assessment are 
available for review and comment by other agencies and the public. All 
comments received, including names and addresses, will become part of 
the public record and will be available for review pursuant to section 
10(c) of the Act.

DATES:  Written comments must be received no later than March 1, 2000.

ADDRESSES:  Written comments should be addressed to Mr. Jim Bartel, 
Assistant Field Supervisor, Fish and Wildlife Service, 2730 Loker 
Avenue West, Carlsbad, California 92008. Comments may also be sent by 
facsimile to (760) 431-5902.

FOR FURTHER INFORMATION CONTACT:  Ms. Karin Cleary-Rose, Fish and 
Wildlife Biologist, at the above address or call (760) 431-9440.


Document Availability

    You may obtain copies of these documents by contacting the Carlsbad 
Fish and Wildlife Office at the above address and telephone number. 
Documents also will be available for public inspection, by appointment, 
during normal business hours at the Carlsbad Fish and Wildlife Office 
and at the Lake Elsinore City Library located at 600 W Graham Street, 
Lake Elsinore.


    Section 9 of the Act and Federal regulation prohibit the ``take'' 
of fish or wildlife species listed as endangered or threatened, 
respectively. Take of listed fish or wildlife is defined under the Act 
to mean harass, harm, pursue, hunt, shoot, wound, kill, trap, capture, 
or collect, or to attempt to engage in any such conduct. However, the 
Service, under limited circumstances, may issue permits to authorize 
incidental take; i.e., take that is incidental to, and not the purpose 
of, the carrying out of an otherwise lawful activity. Regulations 
governing incidental take permits for threatened and endangered species 
are found at 50 CFR 17.32 and 17.22, respectively.
    The Applicant has proposed one tract for development within the 
Canyon Creek Specific Plan Area. The project site is located between 
Interstate 15 and Canyon Lake, at the mouth of Railroad Canyon in the 
City of Lake Elsinore, Riverside County, California. Typical land uses 
in the area surrounding the project site include several residential 
developments, one commercial center, and undeveloped coastal sage scrub 
areas. The San Jacinto River is south of the project site and a 40-acre 
Bureau of Land Management parcel is adjacent to the north side of the 
project site. The Applicant proposes residential development of 120 
homes on the project site.
    Biologists surveyed the project site for special-status plants and 
wildlife in 1998. Based on these surveys and previous knowledge of the 
area, the Service concluded that the project may result in the take of 
one federally listed species, the threatened California gnatcatcher.
    The Applicant proposes to implement the following measures to 
minimize and mitigate take of the California gnatcatcher: (1) 
Constructing a masonry wall between the proposed residential lots and 
adjacent Bureau of Land Management property with an additional barrier 
placed between the edge of the subdivision and the main road to 
minimize effects to adjacent California gnatcatcher populations; (2) 
placing restrictions pertaining to pets and lighting in the lot titles 
and using signs to educate the public and encourage protection of the 
adjacent biological resources; (3) attaching an information packet 
describing the biological values of adjacent coastal sage scrub areas 
as part of the recorded deed for the proposed homes; (4) revegetating 
5.79 acres onsite; and (5) mitigating the loss of 9.2 acres of 
successional Riversidian coastal sage scrub habitat by purchasing 13.8 
acres of good quality Riversidian coastal sage scrub in the Sedco Hills 
Mitigation Bank within the Lake Mathews/Lake Skinner gnatcatcher 
corridor in western Riverside County. The Applicant would endow the 
management of the off-site mitigation area at a cost of $2,500/acre. 
The mitigation site would be managed by The Environmental Trust.
    The Environmental Assessment considers the environmental 
consequences of two alternatives in addition to the Proposed Project 
Alternative. The Proposed Project Alternative consists of the issuance 
of an incidental take permit and implementation of the Plan and its 
Implementing Agreement, which include measures to minimize and mitigate 
impacts of the project to the California gnatcatcher. Under the Reduced 
Project Alternative, 18 lots would be dedicated as open space to form a 
buffer between the subdivision and the Bureau of Land Management 
parcel. As there would no longer be a potential for take by excluding 
these lots from development, no mitigation or minimization measures 
would be necessary. Under the No Action Alternative, the Service would 
not issue a permit and the project area would continue to remain as 
slowly recovering Riversidian coastal sage scrub habitat fragmented by 
intrusions of existing paved streets. The two alternatives would result 
in less habitat value for the California gnatcatcher than the off-site

[[Page 4623]]

mitigation proposed under the Proposed Project Alternative.
    This notice is provided pursuant to section 10(a) of the Act and 
the National Environmental Policy Act of 1969 regulations (40 CFR 
1506.6). The Service will evaluate the application, associated 
documents, and comments submitted thereon to determine whether the 
application meets the requirements of the National Environmental Policy 
Act regulations and section 10(a) of the Act. If it is determined that 
the requirements are met, a permit will be issued to the Applicant for 
the incidental take of the California gnatcatcher. The final permit 
decision will be made no sooner than 30 days from the date of this 

    Dated: January 19, 2000.
Daniel S. Walsworth,
Acting Deputy Manager, California/Nevada Operations Office, Fish and 
Wildlife Service, Sacramento, California.
[FR Doc. 00-1923 Filed 1-28-00; 8:45 am]