[Federal Register: December 28, 2001 (Volume 66, Number 249)]
[Page 67292-67294]
From the Federal Register Online via GPO Access [wais.access.gpo.gov]



Fish and Wildlife Service

Draft Multiple Habitat Conservation Program Plan and Draft 
Environmental Impact Statement/Environmental Impact Report for 
Northwestern San Diego County

AGENCY: Fish and Wildlife Service, Interior.

ACTION: Notice.


SUMMARY: In anticipation of receiving an application for an incidental 
take permit for the Multiple Habitat Conservation

[[Page 67293]]

Program (MHCP) pursuant to section 10 (a)(1)(B) of the Federal 
Endangered Species Act of 1973, as amended, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife 
Service (Service) is requesting public comment on all four volumes of 
the draft MHCP Plan and a draft Environmental Impact Statement/
Environmental Impact Report (EIS/EIR) prepared jointly by the Service 
and San Diego Association of Governments.
    The draft MHCP Plan is intended to inform the public of our 
proposed action to provide a comprehensive multiple-jurisdictional 
planning program designed to create, manage, and monitor an ecosystem 
preserve in northwestern San Diego County, California. Local 
governments within this area have a need for an incidental take permit 
from the Service to accommodate lawful development projects outside of 
the preserve system and to accommodate monitoring and maintenance 
projects within the preserve system that are associated with the MHCP. 
Our issuance of such a permit is a Federal action that requires 
documentation under the National Environmental Policy Act.
    The analysis provided in the draft EIS/EIR is intended to inform 
the public of our proposed action and alternatives; address public 
comments received during the scoping period; 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 

DATES: We must receive your written comments on or before April 29, 

ADDRESSES: Send comments to Mr. Jim Bartel, Field Supervisor, U.S. Fish 
and Wildlife Service, 2730 Loker Avenue West, Carlsbad, California 
92008. You also may submit comments by facsimile to (760) 431-9618.

Wildlife Supervisory Biologist, at the above address; telephone (760) 


Availability of Documents

    You may request copies of the documents by contacting the office 
above. You may view the documents, by appointment, during normal 
business hours (8 a.m. to 5 p.m.), Monday through Friday at the 
Carlsbad Fish and Wildlife Office (see ADDRESSES). Copies are also 
available for viewing at the office of the San Diego Association of 
Governments, 401 B Street, Suite 800, San Diego, California; and on the 
world wide web at http://www.sandag.org.


    Section 9 of the Act and Federal regulation prohibit the ``take'' 
of fish and wildlife species listed as endangered or threatened. Take 
of listed fish or wildlife is defined under the Act to include kill, 
harm, or harass. Harm includes significant habitat modification or 
degradation that actually kills or injures listed wildlife by 
significantly impairing essential behavioral patterns, including 
breeding, feeding, and sheltering (50 CFR 17.3(c). Under limited 
circumstances, the Service may issue permits to authorize incidental 
take; i.e. take that is incidental to, and not the purpose of, 
otherwise lawful activity. Regulations governing incidental take 
permits for threatened and endangered species are found in 50 CFR 17.32 
and 17.22, respectively.
    The MHCP is intended to protect viable populations of native plant 
and animal species and their habitats in perpetuity through the 
creation of a preserve system, while accommodating continued economic 
development and quality of life for residents of northwestern San Diego 
County. The MHCP is one of several large, multiple-jurisdictional 
habitat planning efforts in San Diego County, each of which constitutes 
a ``subregional'' plan under the State of California's Natural 
Community Conservation Planning (NCCP) Act of 1991. The MHCP 
encompasses 175 square miles comprised of the following seven 
incorporated cities: Carlsbad, Encinitas, Escondido, Oceanside, San 
Marcos, Solana Beach, and Vista.
    All four volumes of the MHCP Plan and a draft EIS/EIR prepared 
jointly by the Service and San Diego Association of Governments are 
being made available for a 120-day public comment period. The MHCP is 
described in the Public Review Draft MHCP Plan Volume 1 (November 
2000). The scientific methods used to prepare the MHCP are provided in 
the Public Review Draft MHCP Plan Volume II (November 2000). Volume III 
of the Public Review Draft MHCP Plan is comprised of five draft Subarea 
Plans for the cities of Carlsbad, Encinitas, Escondido, Oceanside and 
San Marcos; these subarea plans are analyzed in the draft EIS/EIR. 
Volume IV of the Public Review Draft MHCP Plan describes the biological 
monitoring program associated with managing the MHCP preserve system to 
ensure that all of the species covered by the MHCP will survive into 
    As described in Volumes I and II of the Public Review Draft MHCP 
Plan (November 2000) and the draft EIS/EIR, the MHCP would create a 
preserve system that protects, manages, and monitors 66 percent of 
coastal sage scrub, 66 percent of chaparral, 80 percent of coastal 
sage/chaparral mix, and 100 percent of riparian and estuarine habitats 
in perpetuity. A major component of the preserve is the conservation of 
400 to 500 acres of contiguous coastal sage scrub centered around the 
cities of Carlsbad, Encinitas, and the extreme southwest portion of San 
Marcos, which supports 16 to 23 pairs of the federally threatened 
coastal California gnatcatcher [Polioptila californica californica]. In 
addition, 338 acres of coastal sage scrub would be restored in key 
locations within the preserve area. Overall, 19,871 acres (66 percent) 
of the natural habitats found in the total MHCP study area would be 
conserved. As a result, coverage for 60 different listed and non-listed 
species is being requested under the MHCP.
    The MHCP is designed to be implemented through individual Subarea 
Plans prepared by participating cities. Five of the seven cities 
(Carlsbad, Encinitas, Escondido, Oceanside, and San Marcos) within the 
MHCP planning area have prepared draft Subarea Plans which describe the 
specific mechanisms their respective city will use to implement the 
MHCP. The City of Vista has not completed their plan; when completed it 
will require a separate environmental analysis. The City of Solana 
Beach does not need to prepare a Subarea Plan at this time since they 
do not anticipate impacting any of the species or habitats covered in 
the MHCP.
    The EIS/EIR considers three alternatives in addition to the 
preferred alternative/proposed project described above: a reduced 
preservation alternative, an increased preservation alternative, and a 
no action alternative.
    Under the reduced preservation alternative, the preserve system 
would be similar to the proposed project, however, the following 
conservation actions would not occur: preservation of the 400 to 500 
acres of contiguous coastal sage scrub in the coastal California 
gnatcatcher core area and the restoration of 338 acres of coastal sage 
scrub habitat throughout the MHCP planning area. Overall, 19,371 acres 
(65 percent) of the habitat in the total MHCP study area would be 
conserved under this alternative.
    Under the increased preservation alternative, all large contiguous 
areas of habitat, all areas supporting major and critical species 
populations or habitat areas, and all important functional linkages and 
movement corridors between them would be conserved. Conservation levels 
include 89 percent

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coastal sage scrub, 93 percent chaparral, 95 percent coastal sage/
chaparral mix, and 100 percent riparian and estuarine habitats. 
Overall, 25,031 acres (84 percent) of the habitat in the total MHCP 
study area would be conserved under this alternative.
    Under the no project alternative, only listed species and habitat 
occupied by such listed species would receive protection. It was 
estimated that conservation levels would include 19 percent coastal 
sage scrub, 31 percent chaparral, and 18 percent coastal sage/chaparral 
mix. Overall, 8,969 acres (30 percent) of natural habitats in the MHCP 
study area would be conserved under this alternative.
    Once the MHCP program and draft documents are finalized and the 
participating cities are ready to implement the program and create the 
preserve system, the participating cities will need to apply for 
incidental take permits from the Service and California Department of 
Fish and Game to accommodate lawful development projects outside of the 
preserve system and monitoring and maintenance projects within the 
preserve system. At this time, the Service will publish in the Federal 
Register separate notices announcing the receipt of an Incidental Take 
Permit Application and draft Implementing Agreement for each city when 
they submit applications. The subregional MHCP and associated Subarea 
Plans for each city are designed to serve as a multiple species Habitat 
Conservation Plan (HCP) pursuant to section 10 (a)(1)(B) of the federal 
Endangered Species Act of 1973, as amended and to meet the requirements 
of section 2800 of the California Endangered Species Act and the NCCP 
    The Service invites the public to comment on the draft MHCP Plan 
and draft EIS/EIR during a 120-day comment period. All comments 
received, including names and addresses, will become part of the 
administrative record and may be made available to the public. This 
notice is provided pursuant to section 10(a) of the Endangered Species 
Act and regulations for implementing the National Environmental Policy 
Act of 1969 (40 CFR 1506.6).

    Dated: December 11, 2001.
John Engbring,
Acting Deputy Manager, Region 1, California/Nevada Operations Office, 
Sacramento, California.
[FR Doc. 01-31199 Filed 12-27-01; 8:45 am]