[Federal Register: August 17, 2001 (Volume 66, Number 160)]
[Page 43265-43267]
From the Federal Register Online via GPO Access [wais.access.gpo.gov]



Fish and Wildlife Service

Final Environmental Impact Statement for the Proposed Issuance of 
an Incidental Take Permit for the Metro Air Park Habitat Conservation 
Plan, Sacramento County, CA

AGENCY: Fish and Wildlife Service, Interior.

ACTION: Notice of availability.


SUMMARY: This notice advises the public of the availability of the 
Final Environmental Impact Statement on the application to incidentally 
take 2 federally listed species and 12 currently unlisted species 
should any of them become listed under the Endangered Species Act of 
1973, as amended (Act), during the life of the permit. The Metro Air 
Park Property Owners Association (Association) has applied to the Fish 
and Wildlife Service (Service) for a 50-year incidental take permit 
pursuant to

[[Page 43266]]

section 10(a)(1)(B) of the Act. The Association seeks this permit 
because urban development and rice farming associated with the Metro 
Air Park 1,892-acre Special Planning Area may result in take of 
threatened and endangered species. The Final Environmental Impact 
Statement on our proposed action of issuing an incidental take permit 
to the Association analyzes four alternatives, addresses public 
comments, and discloses effects of the proposed permit on the 
environment. This notice is provided pursuant to section 10 of the Act 
and National Environmental Policy Act Regulation (40 CFR 1506.6).

DATES: A Record of Decision and permit decision will occur no sooner 
than 30 days from the date of publication of this notice.

ADDRESSES: Copies of the Metro Air Park Habitat Conservation Plan 
(Plan), Implementing Agreement, and Final Environmental Impact 
Statement are available for public inspection, during regular business 
hours, at the Sacramento Fish and Wildlife Office, 2800 Cottage Way, 
Sacramento, CA; State Library, 914 Capitol Mall, Sacramento, CA; the 
State Library, 828 I Street, Sacramento, CA; and the State Library, 
1620 W. El Camino Avenue, Sacramento, CA.

Conservation Planning Division, at the Sacramento Fish and Wildlife 
Office (see address above); telephone: (916) 414-6600.

SUPPLEMENTARY INFORMATION: Section 9 of the Act and Federal regulation 
prohibit the ``take'' of animal species listed as endangered or 
threatened. Take is defined under the Act as harass, harm, pursue, 
hunt, shoot, wound, kill, trap, capture or collect listed animal 
species, or attempt to engage in such conduct (16 U.S.C. 1538). 
However, under limited circumstances, 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 of 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.
    The Association seeks a permit for take of the following federally 
listed species: the threatened giant garter snake (Thamnophis gigas) 
and the threatened valley elderberry longhorn beetle (Desmocerus 
californicus dimorphus). This take would be incidental to urban 
development of the Metro Air Park industrial park project and from rice 
farming activities within the 1,892-acre Special Planning Area and on 
119 acres of lands outside the Special Planning Area in Sacramento 
County, California. The proposed permit would also authorize future 
incidental take of the currently unlisted Swainson's hawk (Buteo 
swainsoni), Aleutian Canada goose (Branta canadensis leucopareia), 
Peregrine falcon, (Falco peregrinus anatum), greater sandhill crane 
(Grus canadensis tubida), bank swallow (Riparia riparia), tricolored 
blackbird (Agelaius tricolor), northwestern pond turtle (Clemmys 
marmorata marmorata), white-faced ibis (Plegadis chihi), loggerhead 
shrike (Lanius ludovicianus), burrowing owl (Athene cunicularia), delta 
tule pea (Lathyrus jepsonii ssp. jepsonii), and Sanford's arrowhead 
(Sagittaria sanfordii) should any of these species become listed under 
the Act during the life of the permit. Collectively, the 14 listed and 
unlisted species are referred to as the ``covered species'' for the 
Association's Plan.
    The Metro Air Park Special Planning Area comprises 1,892 acres 
within the Natomas Basin in Sacramento County, California. Agriculture 
is the dominant land use in the Natomas Basin and on the Metro Air Park 
site. The predominant crops are rice, corn, sugar beets, grain, 
tomatoes, and pasture. Natural and uncultivated vegetation types are 
interspersed throughout the agricultural areas of the Natomas Basin. 
Natural areas are found primarily along irrigation canals, drainage 
ditches, pastures, and uncultivated fields. The borders of drainage 
canals are often associated with narrow strips of emergent vegetation 
and/or wooded riparian areas.
    Portions of the Natomas Basin that are within the jurisdiction of 
the City of Sacramento are included in the Natomas Basin Habitat 
Conservation Plan which was completed by the City of Sacramento in 
November, 1997. The Metro Air Park Project is described in the Natomas 
Basin Habitat Conservation Plan, but because the Metro Air Park Project 
is outside of the City limit lines, the project cannot be covered by 
the City's incidental take permit. Therefore, the Association is 
seeking a separate incidental take permit for the Metro Air Park 
project. Take of listed species could occur as a result of urban 
development of the Metro Air Park industrial park project and from rice 
farming activities.
    Under the Plan, the Association proposes to minimize and mitigate 
the effects of urban development by participating in the basin-wide 
conservation program set up for the entire Natomas Basin which is 
described in the Natomas Basin Habitat Conservation Plan. The focus of 
this basin-wide conservation program is the preservation, enhancement, 
and restoration of ecological communities which support species 
associated with the wetland and upland habitats. Through the payment of 
development fees, one-half acre of mitigation land would be established 
for every acre of land developed within the Plan area. The mitigation 
land would be acquired and managed by the Natomas Basin Conservancy, a 
non-profit conservation organization established to implement the 
Natomas Basin Habitat Conservation Plan. Mitigation fee amounts and the 
mitigation strategy for the Plan would be subject to the same 
adjustments required under the Natomas Basin Habitat Conservation Plan. 
To mitigate for the loss of Swainson's hawk nest trees on-site, the 
Association will secure 200 contiguous acres, in perpetuity, and 
transfer the lands to the Natomas Basin Conservancy to manage them for 
the benefit of Swainson's hawk; or the Association will provide funds 
to the Natomas Basin Conservancy to secure and manage 200 contiguous 
acres, in perpetuity for the benefit of Swainson's hawk. The Plan also 
includes take avoidance and minimization measures that include the 
requirement for landowners to conduct pre-construction surveys for 
covered species and to carry out minimization measures prior to site 
    The Plan will be implemented by the Association with assistance 
from the County of Sacramento and environmental consultants. The 
Natomas Basin Conservancy will serve as the Plan Operator, receive 
mitigation fees from the County, and be responsible for using the fees 
to acquire and manage habitat lands in accordance with the Plan.
    Funding for the Plan will be financed through a combination of 
development fees charged at the time grading permits are issued, Mello-
Roos Community Facilities District bond proceeds, and Property Owners 
    On December 5, 2000, a notice was published in the Federal Register 
(65 FR 75946) announcing that the Service had received an application 
for an incidental take permit from the Association for implementation 
of the Plan and the availability of a Draft Environmental Impact 
Statement for the application. The Draft Environmental Impact Statement 
analyzed the potential environmental impacts that may result from the 
Federal action of authorizing incidental take anticipated to occur with 
implementation of the Plan, and identified various alternatives. Nine

[[Page 43267]]

comment letters were received on the Draft Environmental Impact 
Statement. A response to each comment received in these letters has 
been included in the Final Environmental Impact Statement.
    The Final Environmental Impact Statement considers four 
alternatives, including the Proposed Action and the No-Action/No Take 
Alternative. Under the No-Action/No Take Alternative, no section 
10(a)(1)(B) permit would be issued for take of listed species during 
urban development and other activities in the Plan area. Landowners 
within the Plan area would continue to apply for individual incidental 
take permits on a case-by-case basis, resulting in piecemeal planning 
that would establish smaller and more isolated patches of mitigation 
land. This could result in cumulatively significant adverse impacts to 
those species which would benefit from larger tracts of interconnected 
    The Increased Mitigation Ratio Alternative examines the 
environmental effects of applying a higher mitigation ratio than is 
required under the Natomas Basin Habitat Conservation Plan and the 
proposed Plan for addressing impacts to the giant garter snake and the 
Swainson's hawk. This alternative would require a site-specific 
analysis of habitat values in order to determine specific mitigation 
    The Reduced Development Alternative would result in reduced 
development of the Metro Air Park site. The 18-hole golf course 
situated on approximately 279 acres would be reduced to a 140-acre 9-
hole golf course. This would reallocate 140 acres on-site for the 
creation of habitat as a mitigation area for covered species. Because 
an on-site mitigation area would eventually be surrounded by urban 
development it should be anticipated that adverse urban ``edge 
effects'' will occur.
    The analysis provided in the Final Environmental Impact Statement 
is intended to accomplish the following: inform the public of the 
proposed action and alternatives; address public comments received on 
the Draft Environmental Impact Statement; disclose the direct, 
indirect, and cumulative environmental effects of the proposed action 
and each of the alternatives; and indicate any irreversible commitment 
of resources that would result from implementation of the proposed 

    Dated: August 3, 2001.
John Engbring,
Acting Deputy Manager, California/Nevada Operations Office,Sacramento, 
[FR Doc. 01-20068 Filed 8-16-01; 8:45 am]