[Federal Register: December 18, 2002 (Volume 67, Number 243)]
[Page 77505-77506]
From the Federal Register Online via GPO Access [wais.access.gpo.gov]



Fish and Wildlife Service

Reopening of Public Comment Period for Incidental Take Permits 
for the Alabama Beach Mouse

AGENCY: Fish and Wildlife Service, Interior.

ACTION: Notice of reopening of public comment period.


SUMMARY: The Fish and Wildlife Service previously announced a public 
comment period concerning a notice of intent to prepare an 
Environmental Impact Statement. 67 FR 62809 (October 8, 2002). The 
previous notice indicated that the comment period ended on November 22, 
2002; however, the comment form distributed at the October 29, 2002, 
scoping meeting incorrectly indicated that the comment period ended on 
November 29, 2002, inadvertently extending the comment period an 
additional 7 days. In order to assure that all interested parties are 
able to comment on the preparation of an EIS, we are re-opening the 
comment period for 15 days.
    The environmental impact statement would address the proposed Gulf 
Highlands Area Habitat Conservation Plan (HCP) and issuance of two 
permits for the incidental take of the Alabama beach mouse. Comments 
previously submitted between October 8, 2002, and November 29, 2002, 
need not be resubmitted as they will be incorporated into the public 
record and will be fully considered in the final determination on the 
proposal. These permits are for the construction, occupancy, use, 
operation, and maintenance of two residential/recreational condominium 
projects--the Gulf Highlands Condominiums by Gulf Highlands LLC and 
Beach Club West by Fort Morgan Paradise Joint Venture on the Fort 
Morgan Peninsula, in Baldwin County, Alabama.

DATES: Written comments concerning our intent to prepare an EIS and

[[Page 77506]]

concerning the HCP should be received on or before January 2, 2003.

ADDRESSES: Persons wishing to review the application and HCP may obtain 
a copy by writing the Service's Southeast Regional Office at Regional 
Office, 1875 Century Boulevard, Suite 200, Atlanta, GA 30345 (Attn: 
Endangered Species Permits,) or Field Office, U.S. Fish and Wildlife 
Service, 1208-B Main Street, Daphne, AL 36526 (Attn: Ms. Barbara 
Allen). Documents will be available for public inspection by 
appointment during normal business hours at the regional office. 
Written data or comments concerning the HCP and our notice of intent to 
prepare an EIS should be submitted to the Regional Office. Please 
reference permit numbers TE-007985-0 (Gulf Highlands) and TE-031307-0 
(Fort Morgan Peninsula Joint Venture) in such comments, or in requests 
for documents.

FOR FURTHER INFORMATION CONTACT: Mr. Aaron Valenta, Regional Permit 
Coordinator, (see ADDRESSES above), telephone: 404/679-4144; or Ms. 
Barbara Allen, Fish and Wildlife Biologist, Daphne Field Office, (see 
ADDRESSES above), telephone: 334/441-5181, extension 33.

SUPPLEMENTARY INFORMATION: The proposed residential/recreational 
condominium developments will be located on approximately 196 acres in 
south Baldwin County, Alabama, between State Highway 180 and the Gulf 
of Mexico (Section 28, Township 9 South, Range 2 East) about twelve 
miles west of Highway 59 in Gulf Shores, Alabama, on the Fort Morgan 
    Some of the Applicants' future activities have the potential to 
impact species subject to protection under the Act, including the 
Alabama beach mouse (Peromyscus polionotus ammobates). Section 
10(a)(1)(B) permits non-Federal landowners to take endangered and 
threatened species, provided the take is incidental to otherwise lawful 
activities and will not appreciably reduce the likelihood for the 
survival and recovery of the species in the wild, among other permit 
issuance criteria. An applicant for a permit under section 10 of the 
Act must prepare and submit to the Service for approval a plan 
containing, among other things, a strategy for minimizing and 
mitigating all take associated with the proposed activities to the 
maximum extent practicable. The applicant must also ensure that 
adequate funding for implementation of the plan will be provided.
    The Applicants have initiated and continued discussions with the 
Service regarding the possibility of Permits and an associated HCP for 
their activities on lands to be covered by the Permits. General 
activities proposed for permit coverage include residential, commercial 
and industrial development, construction, and maintenance activities.
    The Service previously considered the Applicants' HCP in an 
Environmental Assessment and issued a finding of no significant impact. 
67 FR 17089 (April 9, 2002). That environmental analysis was challenged 
in an action for judicial review brought by Sierra Club and Friends of 
the Earth. The United States District Court for the Southern District 
of Alabama granted a preliminary injunction against any take of the 
Alabama beach mouse pursuant to the permits previously issued to 
Applicants. Sierra Club and Friends of the Earth v. Norton, 207 F. 
Supp. 2d. 1310 (S.D. Ala. 2002).
    Subsequently, the Service determined to revisit the earlier NEPA 
analysis for this HCP and the issued permits. See Defendant's Motion 
for Voluntary Remand, Sierra Club and Friends of the Earth v. Norton, 
No. CV-02-0258-CB-C (S.D. Ala. Aug. 8, 2002). The Service has decided, 
and announces through this and the previous notice, its intent to 
review the proposed HCP and the environmental effects of issuing the 
permits through preparation of an EIS.
    The environmental review will analyze the Applicants' proposed HCP 
as well as a full range of reasonable alternatives and the associated 
impacts of each. The Service is currently in the process of developing 
alternatives for analysis. The alternatives identified to date are as 
    Alternative 1--No action: The service would not re-affirm the ITPs.
    Alternative 2--Development according to original Gulf Highlands 
Subdivision plat: A portion of the Applicants' properties were 
originally platted and zoned for single family residential development 
by the Baldwin County Planning Commission. This development alternative 
involves development according to the original plat or by additional 
platting and subdivision of the lands.
    Alternative 3--Development with primary features occupying full 
width of the escarpment: Alternative 3 consists of the residential 
high-rise building complexes placed atop the escarpment.
    Alternative 4--Development entirely north of the escarpment: This 
alternative would involve development of residential condominium 
buildings and infrastructure approximately 300 feet north of the 
escarpment for both projects.
    Alternative 5--Development of portions of the escarpment with a 
325-ft. habitat corridor between the projects: Alternative 5 consists 
of the development of the same number of units, but placed on different 
portions of the escarpment and adjacent areas. This development 
configuration would result in the preservation of an undeveloped 
corridor of ABM habitat approximately 325 feet wide separating the 
individual developments and connecting the interior scrub areas with 
the designated critical habitat to the south of the developments.
    Alternative 6--Development of onsite mitigation including a 909-
foot corridor connecting adjacent primary/secondary dunes and 
escarpment to the interior: This alternative increases the width of the 
undeveloped corridor described above and repositions the corridor to 
the west side of the property. This alternative provides for dedication 
of 105.5 acres of Applicant-owned lands into conservation status via 
covenants, conditions and restrictions attached to the property, and 
conditions of any ITP that might be issued.
    Persons wishing to provide relevant information and comments 
regarding this activity should submit these to the above address. For 
information, please contact the individual identified above in the 
    The environmental review of this project will be conducted in 
accordance with the requirements of the National Environmental Policy 
Act of 1969 as amended (42 U.S.C. 4321 et seq.) and its implementing 
regulations (40 CFR parts 1500 through 1508), and with other 
appropriate Federal laws and regulations, policies, and procedures of 
the Service for compliance with those regulations. It is estimated that 
the draft EIS will be available for public review in early 2003.

    Dated: December 4, 2002.
Sam D. Hamilton,
Regional Director.
[FR Doc. 02-31777 Filed 12-17-02; 8:45 am]