[Federal Register: October 3, 2001 (Volume 66, Number 192)]
[Page 50444-50445]
From the Federal Register Online via GPO Access [wais.access.gpo.gov]



Fish and Wildlife Service

Availability of an Environmental Action Statement and Receipt of 
an Application From Paramount Farming Company for a Permit To Enhance 
the Survival of the San Joaquin Kit Fox in Kern County, CA

AGENCY: Fish and Wildlife Service, Interior.

ACTION: Notice of Availability.


SUMMARY: Paramount Farming Company (Applicant) has applied to the Fish 
and Wildlife Service (Service) for an enhancement of survival permit 
pursuant to section 10(a)(1)(A) of the Endangered Species Act of 1973, 
as amended. The permit application includes a proposed Safe Harbor 
Agreement (Agreement) between the Applicant and the Service. The 
Agreement allows for management and conservation of the endangered San 
Joaquin kit fox (Vulpes macrotis mutica) on 1,668 acres of private 
land, owned by the Applicant, between the Lost Hills oil field and the 
California Aqueduct, in western Kern County. The proposed duration of 
both the Agreement and permit is 3 years, and can be extended on an 
annual basis.
    The Service has made a preliminary determination that the proposed 
Agreement and permit application are eligible for categorical exclusion 
under the National Environmental Policy Act of 1969. The basis for this 
determination is contained in an Environmental Action Statement, which 
also is available for public review.

DATES: Written comments should be received on or before November 2, 

ADDRESSES: Comments should be addressed to Chief, Conservation Planning 
Division, Fish and Wildlife Service, 2800 Cottage Way, W-2605, 
Sacramento, California, 95825-1846 or sent by facsimile to (916) 414-

FOR FURTHER INFORMATION CONTACT: Susan Jones, Fish and Wildlife 
Biologist, at (916) 414-6600 (see ADDRESSES).


Document Availability

    Individuals wishing copies of the application, Agreement, and 
Environmental Action Statement should immediately contact the Service 
by telephone at (916) 414-6600 or by letter to the Sacramento Fish and 
Wildlife Office. Copies of the documents are also available for public 
inspection at the Sacramento Fish and Wildlife Office during regular 
business hours.


    Under a Safe Harbor Agreement, participating landowners voluntarily 
undertake management activities on their property to enhance, restore, 
or maintain habitat benefitting species listed under the Endangered 
Species Act of 1973, as amended. Safe Harbor Agreements encourage 
private and other non-Federal property owners to implement conservation 
efforts for listed species by assuring property owners they will not be 
subjected to increased property use restrictions if their efforts 
attract listed species to their property or increase the numbers or 
distribution of listed species already on their property. Application 
requirements and issuance criteria for enhancement of survival permits 
through Safe Harbor Agreements are found in 50 CFR 17.22(c).
    The Applicant has developed the proposed Agreement for the 
conservation of the endangered San Joaquin kit fox on 1,668 acres of 
their land in Kern County, California. The escape dens are being placed 
purposely in an active acricultural area to determine if, while 
foraging in agricultural fields, San Joaquin kit foxes can escape 
predation by coyotes, red foxes, and other canids. During the 3-year 
period, some escape dens may be relocated in response to data from the

[[Page 50445]]

study. Approximately 25 escape dens will be installed in above-ground 
mounds, to reduce the risk of flooding from crop irrigation, especially 
with regard to row crops. Of these, approximately four will consist of 
a concrete or metal chamber that is generally buried several feet below 
the surface and connected to the surface by means of one or two 8-inch 
pipes. The remaining escape dens will be suitable diameter pipes placed 
on the surface and covered with dirt in such a way as to leave one or 
both ends of the pipe open. The total surface area buffer around the 
escape den sites that needs to be kept free of earth moving activities, 
planting, or other disturbance will be no less than 10 feet and up to 
30 feet when possible. To minimize the amount of affected agricultural 
land, the escape dens will be located along existing agricultural 
roads, irrigation canals, or other areas not in current agricultural 
use. To optimize distribution, some escape dens may be located on land 
currently in agricultural use. Use of the escape dens will be monitored 
by the Endangered Species Recovery Program, a cooperative research 
program based out of California State University at Fresno, California. 
Monitoring will be conducted using radio telemetry of radio-collared 
San Joaquin kit fox, spotlighting, track plates, remote cameras, and 
physical inspection. Scheduling of all activities related to this 
project will occur to ensure that there is no interference with 
agricultural activities on Paramount Farm's land.
    Threats to survival of the San Joaquin kit fox include loss and 
degradation of habitat by agricultural and industrial developments and 
urbanization, and fragmentation of habitat by development and roads, as 
detailed in the Recovery Plan for Upland Species of the San Joaquin 
Valley prepared by the Service in 1998. The Agreement provides a net 
conservation benefit to San Joaquin kit fox by (1) providing 
information about San Joaquin kit fox use of escape dens on 
agricultural lands and (2) facilitating movement of San Joaquin kit fox 
across agricultural lands. The biological goal of San Joaquin kit fox 
conservation measures in the Agreement is to improve movement of San 
Joaquin kit foxes between populations that are becoming more and more 
isolated. Recovery of the species would be enhanced by more movement of 
San Joaquin kit foxes between populations and lower predation rates of 
San Joaquin kit fox on agricultural lands.
    Consistent with the Service's Safe Harbor Agreement, regulation and 
policy, under the Agreement, the Service would issue a permit to the 
Applicant authorizing incidental take as a result of normal 
agricultural activities on the 1,668 acres. Cotton, barley, wheat, and 
safflower are grown on about 69 percent of these acres; pistachios 
cover about 21 percent, and almonds 5 percent. Approximately 5 percent 
is a former orchard that is now a disced field. Normal agricultural 
practices that are expected to occur on these lands and that are 
proposed to be included in the Agreement are discing, irrigation, and 
harvesting. Application of pesticides will not be covered by the Safe 
Harbor Agreement.
    The Applicant also will receive incidental take authorization, 
should San Joaquin kit fox activity on their land be enhanced through 
the artificial escape dens. While unlikely, it is possible that in the 
course of normal agricultural activities, a San Joaquin kit fox 
accidently could be injured or killed.
    This Agreement will allow the Applicant to remove the artificial 
escape dens and return the area to it's prior, or baseline condition 
(i.e., no San Joaquin kit fox dens) after 3 years, if so desired by the 
    The Service has made a preliminary determination that approval of 
the Agreement qualifies as a categorical exclusion under the National 
Environmental Policy Act, as provided by the Department of Interior 
Manual (516 DM 2, Appendix 1 and 516 DM 6, Appendix 1) based on the 
following criteria: (1) Implementation of the Agreement would result in 
minor or negligible effects on federally listed, proposed, and 
candidate species and their habitats; (2) implementation of the 
Agreement would result in minor or negligible effects on other 
environmental values or resources; and (3) impacts of the Agreement, 
considered together with the impacts of other past, present and 
reasonably foreseeable similarly situated projects would not result, 
over time, in cumulative effects to environmental values or resources 
which would be considered significant. As more fully explained in our 
Environmental Action Statement, the Agreement qualifies for a 
Categorical Exclusion from NEPA for the following reasons:
    1. Approval of the Agreement would result in minor or negligible 
effects on the San Joaquin kit fox. The Service does not anticipated 
significant direct or cumulative effects to the San Joaquin kit fox 
resulting from the proposed project.
    2. Approval of the Agreement would not have adverse effects on 
unique geographic, historic or cultural sites, or involve unique or 
unknown environmental risks.
    3. Approval of the Agreement would not result in any cumulative or 
growth inducing impacts and, therefore, would not result in significant 
adverse effects on public health or safety.
    4. The project does not require compliance with Executive Order 
11988 (Floodplain Management), Executive Order 11990 (Protection of 
Wetlands), or the Fish and Wildlife Coordination Act, nor does it 
threaten to violate a Federal, State, local or tribal law or 
requirement imposed for the protection of the environment.
    5. Approval of the Agreement would establish a precedent for future 
actions or represent a decision in principle about future actions with 
potentially significant environmental effects.
    Based upon this preliminary determination, we do not intend to 
prepare further NEPA documentation. The Service will consider public 
comments in making it final determination on whether to prepare such 
additional documentation.
    The Service provides this notice pursuant to section 10(c) of the 
Endangered Species Act and pursuant to implementing regulations for 
NEPA (40 CFR 1506.6). All comments received on the permit application 
and Agreement, including names and addresses, will become part of the 
Administrative record and may be released to the public. We will 
evaluate the permit application, the Agreement, and comments submitted 
thereon to determine whether the application meets the requirements of 
section 10(a) of the Act and NEPA regulations. If the requirements are 
met, the Service will sign the proposed Agreement and issue an 
enhancement of survival permit under section 10(a)(1)(A) of the 
Endangered Species Act to the Applicant for take of San Joaquin kit fox 
incidental to otherwise lawful activities of the project. The Service 
will not make a final decision until after the end of the 30-day 
comment period and will fully consider all comments received during the 
comment period.

    Dated: September 27, 2001.
Duane K. McDermond,
Acting Deputy Manager, California/Nevada Operations Office, Fish and 
Wildlife Service, Sacramento, California.
[FR Doc. 01-24759 Filed 10-2-01; 8:45 am]