[Federal Register: September 12, 2003 (Volume 68, Number 177)]
[Page 53748-53751]
From the Federal Register Online via GPO Access [wais.access.gpo.gov]



Fish and Wildlife Service

Notice of Intent To Prepare an Environmental Impact Statement 
(EIS) and Notice of a Public Scoping Meeting Related to the Pima County 
Multi-Species Conservation Plan To Be Held on October 4, 2003

AGENCY: Fish and Wildlife Service, Interior.

ACTION: Notice of Intent to prepare an EIS and notice of a public 
scoping meeting.


SUMMARY: Pursuant to the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA), this 
notice advises the public that the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service 
(Service) intends to prepare an EIS to evaluate the impacts of and 
alternatives for the possible issuance of an incidental take permit, 
pursuant to section 10(a)(1)(B) of the Endangered Species Act of 1973, 
as amended (Act), to Pima County. Pima County is preparing to apply for 
an incidental take permit through development and implementation of the 
Pima County Multi-Species Conservation Plan (MSCP), which will serve as 
a habitat conservation plan, as required by the Act, for issuance of an 
incidental take permit. The Pima County MSCP will include measures 
necessary to minimize and mitigate the effects of the proposed taking 
of listed and sensitive species and their habitats.
    Date of Scoping Meeting: A public scoping meeting will be held on 
October 4, 2003, at 10 a.m. at the Pima County Public Works.

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DATES: Written comments on possible conservation alternatives and 
issues to be addressed in the EIS must be received by October 27, 2003.

ADDRESSES: Written comments should be sent to Mr. Steven L. Spangle, 
Field Supervisor, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, 2321 West Royal Palm 
Road, Suite 103, Phoenix, AZ, 85021. Oral and written comments will 
also be accepted at the public scoping meeting to be held at the 
offices of Pima County Public Works, Room C in the Basement, 201 North 
Stone Avenue, Tucson, Arizona 85701.
    Comments, as well as the names and addresses of commentors, may be 
disclosed under the Freedom of Information Act unless a commentor gives 
a privacy or other exemption justification.

Barrett, Assistant Field Supervisor, Tucson Suboffice, U.S. Fish and 
Wildlife Service, 110 S. Church, Suite 3450, Tucson, AZ, 85701, at 520/
    For Further Information on the Pima County MSCP Contact: Mr. Paul 
Fromer, RECON, 1927 Fifth Avenue, Suite 200, San Diego, California 
92101-2358 at 619/308-9333. Information on the purpose, membership, 
meeting schedules, and documents associated with the Pima County MSCP 
may be obtained on the Internet at http://www.co.pima.az.us/cmo/sdcp/index.html

SUPPLEMENTARY INFORMATION: This notice advises the public that the 
Service intends to gather information necessary to determine impacts 
and alternatives for an EIS related to the issuance of an incidental 
take permit to Pima County, pursuant to section 10(a)(1)(B) of the 
Endangered Species Act of 1973, as amended (Act), and the 
implementation of the Pima County Multi-Species Conservation Plan 
(MSCP), which will provide measures to minimize and mitigate the 
effects of the incidental take of federally listed species.


    Pima County, Arizona, is home to over 800,000 residents, and the 
population is expected to reach 1.2 million by the year 2020. The Pima 
County Board of Supervisors is responsible for the protection of those 
lands in Pima County that are of environmental, cultural, or historic 
importance. Given Pima County's rapid growth rate, the Board of 
Supervisors has recognized the need to balance economic, environmental, 
and human interests by implementing a regional, ecosystem-based multi-
species conservation program.
    In October of 1998, Pima County developed a draft Sonoran Desert 
Conservation Concept Plan (SDCP). Pima County adopted the SDCP in 
concept in March 1999 to frame future regional land-use conservation 
planning and formed an 84-member Steering Committee and numerous 
technical teams.
    Pima County also agreed to pursue an ecosystem-based approach to 
developing the SDCP for interim and long-term compliance with 
applicable endangered species and environmental laws and to implement 
conservation and protection measures for species and habitat covered in 
the SDCP. In December 2001, the Pima County Board of Supervisors 
adopted the Pima County Comprehensive Plan Update, which incorporates 
aspects of the SDCP.
    On June 17, 2003, the recommendations of the Steering Committee 
were presented to the Pima County Board of Supervisors for formulation 
of the preferred alternative for the MSCP.

Purpose of and Need for Action

    The purpose of and need for the proposed Pima County MSCP are: (1) 
to ensure the long-term survival of the full spectrum of plants and 
animals that are indigenous to Pima County, through maintaining or 
improving the habitat conditions and ecosystems necessary for their 
survival; and (2) to provide the framework for a combination of actions 
to protect and enhance the natural environment through comprehensive, 
long-range planning. This will ensure that the County's natural and 
urban environments can not only coexist, but can also develop an 
interdependent relationship with one another. This relationship will 
guide already approved public bond investments and conservation and 
preservation actions, define Federal program and funding priorities, 
and establish a regional preference for the expenditure of State funds 
to preserve and protect State Trust lands threatened by urbanization.
    Section 9 of the Act prohibits the ``taking'' of threatened and 
endangered species. The Service may, however, under limited 
circumstances, issue permits that allow the incidental take of 
federally listed and candidate species, incidental to, and not the 
purpose of, the carrying out of otherwise lawful activities. 
Regulations governing permits for endangered and threatened species are 
at 50 CFR 17.22 and 17.32, respectively. The term ``take'' under the 
Act means to harass, harm, pursue, hunt, shoot, wound, kill, trap, 
capture, or collect, or attempt to engage in any such conduct. 
Regulations define ``harm'' as significant habitat modification or 
degradation that results in death or injury to listed species by 
significantly impairing essential behavioral patterns, including 
breeding, feeding, or sheltering (50 CFR 17.3). The proposed permit 
would allow approved incidental take that is consistent with the 
conservation guidelines of the Pima County MSCP.
    Section 10(a)(1)(B) of the Act contains provisions for issuing 
incidental take permits to non-federal entities for the take of 
endangered and threatened species, provided the following criteria are 
    1. The taking will be incidental;
    2. The applicant will, to the maximum extent practicable, minimize 
and mitigate the impact of such taking;
    3. The applicant will ensure that adequate funding for the Plan 
will be provided;
    4. The taking will not appreciably reduce the likelihood of the 
survival and recovery of the species in the wild; and
    5. Any other measures that the Service may require as being 
necessary or appropriate for the purposes of the Plan.
    The Pima County MSCP considers the Act's section 10(a)(1)(B) 
requirements and is consistent with Pima County's larger conservation 
and land-use vision.
    We anticipate that Pima County will request permit coverage for a 
period of 20 to 50 years. Implementation of the Pima County MSCP will 
result in the establishment of a conservation lands system that is 
expected to provide for the conservation of covered species and their 
habitats in perpetuity. Research and monitoring in combination with 
adaptive management will be used to facilitate accomplishment of these 

Proposed Action

    The proposed action is the issuance of an incidental take permit 
for listed and sensitive species in Pima County, pursuant to section 
10(a)(1)(B) of the Act. Pima County will develop and implement the Pima 
County MSCP, which will serve as a habitat conservation plan, as 
required by section 10(a)(2)(A) of the Act. The Pima County MSCP will 
provide measures to minimize and mitigate the effects of the taking on 
listed and sensitive species and their habitats. The biological goal of 
the Pima County MSCP is to ensure the long-term survival of the full 
spectrum of plants and animals that are indigenous to Pima County 
through maintaining or improving the habitat conditions and ecosystem 

[[Page 53750]]

necessary for their survival and to ensure that any incidental take of 
listed species will not appreciably reduce the likelihood of the 
survival and recovery of those species.
    The purpos of the scoping meeting to be held on October 4, 2003, at 
10:00 a.m. at the offices of Pima County Public Works, Room C in the 
Basement, 201 North Stone Avenue, Tucson, Arizona is to brief the 
public on the background of the Pima County MSCP, alternative proposals 
under consideration for the draft EIS, and the Fish and Wildlife 
Service's role and steps that we will take to develop the draft EIS for 
this habitat conservation planning effort. At the scoping meeting, 
there will be an opportunity for the public to ask questions, to 
provide oral comments and also to provide written comments. Written 
comments may also be sent to the Fish and Wildlife Service by mail (see 
Addresses section above).
    Activities proposed for coverage under the incidental take permit 
include lawful activities that would occur consistent with the Pima 
County MSCP conservation guidelines and include, but are not limited 
to, maintenance of county operations, implementation of capital 
improvement projects, and issuance of land-use related permits, 
including those for residential and commercial development.
    Pima County is expected to apply for an incidental take permit for 
55 vulnerable species that would be protected within their Conservation 
Lands System map. The 55 species include the following federally listed 
species: the lesser long-nosed bat (Leptonycteris curasoae 
yerbabuenae), cactus ferruginous pygmy-owl (Glaucidium brasilianum 
cactorum), southwestern willow flycatcher (Empidonax traillii extimus), 
Chiricahua leopard frog (Rana Chiricahuensis), desert pupfish 
(Cyprinodon macularius), Gila topminnow (Poeciliopsis occidentalis 
occidentalis), Huachuca water umbel (Lilaeopsis schaffneriana var. 
recurva), Nichol Turk's head cactus (Echinocactus horizonthalonius var. 
nicholli), and Pima pineapple cactus (Coryphantha scheeri var. 
robustispina). In addition, Pima County will seek to address and cover 
the Gila chub (Gila intermedia), a species proposed for listing, and 
the Acuna cactus (Echinomastus erectocentrus var. acunensis) and 
yellow-billed cuckoo (Coccyzus americanus spp. Occidentalis), both of 
which are candidates for listing. Pima County is also seeking to 
address and cover at least 43 other rare and/or sensitive species that 
occur in the County. Unlisted species that are considered as if they 
were listed, and that the Service finds are adequately conserved by the 
Pima County MSCP, will be automatically permitted for incidental take 
should they be listed as federally threatened or endangered species in 
the future. Numerous other listed and sensitive species for which Pima 
County is not seeking permit coverage will also benefit from the 
conservation measures provided in the Pima County MSCP through 
protection of similar or overlapping habitat conditions and ecosystem 


    The proposed action and alternatives that will be developed in the 
EIS will be assessed against the No Action/No Project alternative, 
which assumes that some or all of the current and future projects 
proposed in Pima County would be implemented individually, one at a 
time, and be in compliance with the Act. The No Action/No Project 
alternative implies that the impacts from these potential projects on 
sensitive species and habitats would be evaluated and mitigated on a 
project-by-project basis, as is currently the case. For any activities 
involving take of listed species due to non-federal projects/actions, 
individual Section 10(a)(1)(B) permits would be required. Without a 
coordinated, comprehensive ecosystem-based conservation approach for 
the region, listed species may not be adequately addressed by 
individual project-specific mitigation requirements, unlisted candidate 
and sensitive species would not receive proactive action intended to 
preclude the need to list them in the future, and project-specific 
mitigation would be piecemeal and less cost effective in helping 
Federal and non-federal agencies work toward recovery of listed 
species. Current independent conservation actions would continue, 
although some of these are not yet funded.
    Other alternatives that may be considered in the EIS include 
issuance of an incidental take permit for only the 9 currently listed 
species, plus those species that would be adequately addressed by the 
conservation measures enacted for those 9 species; issuance of an 
incidental take permit for an undetermined number of listed and 
unlisted species within the 55 identified vulnerable species; and 
issuance of an incidental take permit for the species within the 55 
identified vulnerable species that are currently listed as threatened 
and endangered or are candidates or proposed for listing. In addition, 
alternatives may consider varying levels of take anticipated and amount 
and location of mitigation.

Environmental Review

    The primary issue to be addressed during the scoping and planning 
process for the MSCP and EIS is how to resolve potential conflicts 
between development or land management practices and listed and 
sensitive species in Pima County. We have identified a preliminary list 
of probable environmental issues and effects associated with the 
proposed action. Other issues may be identified during the development 
of the Pima County MSCP and through the public scoping process. Until a 
firm proposal and alternatives with specific actions and locations are 
developed, it is difficult to predict more specific impacts. The 
preliminary list is as follows:
    Urban land uses, including residential, commercial, and industrial 
development. Transportation, Water resources, including watershed 
function and water quality. Agriculture, air resources, cultural and 
historic resources, recreation. Ranching practices and livestock 
grazing, mineral resources, utility rights-of-way, fire Management, 
social and economic resources, environmental justice
    We will conduct an environmental review that analyzes the proposed 
action, as well as a range of reasonable alternatives and the 
associated impacts of each. The EIS will be the basis for the Service's 
evaluation of impacts to the species and the range of alternatives to 
be addressed. The EIS is expected to provide biological descriptions of 
the affected species and habitats and an analysis of the socioeconomic 
effects of the proposed action.
    This notice is being furnished in accordance with 40 CFR 1501.7. 
Comments and suggestions are invited from all interested parties to 
ensure that a range of issues and alternatives related to the proposed 
action are identified. The review of this project will be conducted 
according to the requirements of the National Environmental Policy Act 
of 1969, as amended (42 U.S.C. 4321 et seq.), National Environmental 
Policy Act Regulations (40 CFR 1500-1508), other appropriate Federal 
laws, regulations, policies, and guidance, and Service procedures for 
compliance with those regulations.
    After the environmental review is complete, we will publish a 
notice of availability and a request for comment on the draft EIS and 
Pima County's permit application, which will include the Pima County 

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    The draft EIS is expected to be completed and available to the 
public by December 2003.

Bryan Arroyo,
Acting Regional Director, Southwest Region, Albuquerque, New Mexico.
[FR Doc. 03-23355 Filed 9-11-03; 8:45 am]