[Federal Register: June 14, 2005 (Volume 70, Number 113)]
[Page 34491-34492]
From the Federal Register Online via GPO Access [wais.access.gpo.gov]



Fish and Wildlife Service

Receipt of an Application for an Incidental Take Permit for the 
Florida Scrub-Jay Resulting From Construction of a Multi-Home 
Subdivision in Marion County, FL

AGENCY: Fish and Wildlife Service, Interior.

ACTION: Notice.


SUMMARY: Southern Multicapital Corporation (Applicant) requests an 
incidental take permit (ITP) pursuant to section 10(a)(1)(B) of the 
Endangered Species Act of 1973 (Act), as amended (U.S.C. 1531 et seq.). 
The Applicant anticipates destroying about 93 acres of occupied Florida 
scrub-jay (Aphelocoma coerulescens) (scrub-jay) habitat in Section 21, 
Township 16 South, Range 21 East, Marion County, Florida. Habitat 
destruction would be expected due to vegetation clearing and the 
subsequent construction of infrastructure and single-family homes. Up 
to four scrub-jay families could be taken as a result of the 
Applicant's proposed actions.
    The Applicant's Habitat Conservation Plan (HCP) describes the 
mitigation and minimization measures proposed to address the effects of 
the project to the scrub-jay. These measures are outlined in the 
SUPPLEMENTARY INFORMATION section below. We announce the availability 
of the ITP application, HCP, and a draft environmental assessment. 
Copies of the application, HCP, and environmental assessment may be 
obtained by making a request to the Southeast Regional Office (see 
ADDRESSES). Requests must be in writing to be processed. This notice is 
provided pursuant to section 10 of the Act and National Environmental 
Policy Act regulations (40 CFR 1506.6).

DATES: Written comments on the ITP application, HCP, and environmental 
assessment should be sent to the Service's Southeast Regional Office 
(see ADDRESSES) and should be received on or before August 15, 2005.

ADDRESSES: Persons wishing to review the application, HCP, and 
environmental assessment may obtain a copy by writing the Service's 
Southeast Regional Office at the address below. Please reference permit 
number TE098004-0 in such requests. Documents will also be available 
for public inspection by appointment during normal business hours 
either at the Southeast Regional Office, U.S. Fish and Wildlife 
Service, 1875 Century Boulevard, Suite 200, Atlanta, Georgia 30345 
(Attn: Endangered Species Permits), or at the Jacksonville Field 
Office, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, 6620 Southpoint Drive South, 
Suite 310, Jacksonville, Florida 32216-0912 (Attn: Field Supervisor).

Coordinator, Southeast Regional Office (see ADDRESSES above), 
telephone: 404/679-7313, facsimile: 404/679-7081; or Mr.

[[Page 34492]]

Mike Jennings, Fish and Wildlife Biologist, Jacksonville Field Office 
(see ADDRESSES above), telephone: 904/232-2580.

SUPPLEMENTARY INFORMATION: If you wish to comment, you may submit 
comments by any one of several methods. Please reference permit number 
TE098004-0 in such comments. You may mail comments to the Service's 
Southeast Regional Office (see ADDRESSES). You may also comment via the 
Internet to david_dell@fws.gov. Please submit comments over the 
internet as an ASCII file, avoiding the use of special characters and 
any form of encryption. Please also include your name and return 
address in your e-mail message. If you do not receive a confirmation 
from us that we have received your e-mail message, contact us directly 
at either telephone number listed above (see FOR FURTHER INFORMATION 
CONTACT). Finally, you may hand-deliver comments to either Service 
office listed above (see ADDRESSES). Our practice is to make comments, 
including names and home addresses of respondents, available for public 
review during regular business hours. Individual respondents may 
request that we withhold their home addresses from the administrative 
record. We will honor such requests to the extent allowable by law. 
There may also be other circumstances in which we would withhold from 
the administrative record a respondent's identity, as allowable by law. 
If you wish us to withhold your name and address, you must state this 
prominently at the beginning of your comments. We will not, however, 
consider anonymous comments. We will make all submissions from 
organizations or businesses, and from individuals identifying 
themselves as representatives or officials of organizations or 
businesses, available for public inspection in their entirety.
    The Florida scrub-jay (scrub-jay) is geographically isolated from 
other species of scrub-jays found in Mexico and the western United 
States. The scrub-jay is found exclusively in peninsular Florida and is 
restricted to xeric uplands (well-drained, sandy soil habitats 
supporting a growth of oak-dominated scrub). Increasing urban and 
agricultural development has resulted in habitat loss and 
fragmentation, which has adversely affected the distribution and 
numbers of scrub-jays. The total estimated population is between 7,000 
and 11,000 individuals.
    The decline in the number and distribution of scrub-jays in central 
Florida has been exacerbated by agricultural land conversions and urban 
growth in the past 50 years. Much of the historic commercial and 
residential development has occurred on the dry soils that previously 
supported scrub-jay habitat. Based on existing soils data, much of the 
current scrub-jay habitat of central Florida occurs in what was once 
the coastal sand dunes created over the millennia due to rising and 
falling oceans. These ancient dunes are most prevalent from southern 
Highlands County north to Marion County. Much of this area of Florida 
was settled early because few wetlands restricted urban and 
agricultural development. Due to the effects of urban and agricultural 
development over the past 100 years, much of the remaining scrub-jay 
habitat is now relatively small and isolated. What remains is largely 
degraded, due to interruption of the natural fire regime that is needed 
to maintain xeric uplands in conditions suitable for scrub-jays.
    Residential construction would take place within Section 21, 
Township 16 South, Range 21 East, Marion County, Florida. Surveys 
conducted by the Applicant indicated that scrub-jays occupied 93 of the 
218 acres proposed to be developed as a residential community. The 
clearing of vegetation for infrastructure and home construction would 
destroy feeding, breeding, and sheltering habitat of the scrub-jay.
    The Applicant has not proposed to minimize impacts to scrub-jays at 
the proposed construction site because small, on-site scrub-jay 
preserves may actually harm scrub-jays by concentrating birds into an 
area where predators may attack them, increasing their susceptibility 
to collisions with automobiles, and increasing the incidence of 
competition with other more urban-adapted bird species. Instead of 
protecting habitat within the future residential community, the 
Applicant is proposing to acquire 158 acres, of which 102 acres is 
considered suitable for scrub-jays. The U.S. Forest Service has 
tentatively agreed to accept fee title and management responsibilities 
for the 158 acres which would be acquired by the Applicant. Although 
the Forest Service must work through processes and procedures prior to 
accepting the land donation and agreeing to restoration and management 
of the tract, it does not anticipate any issues to arise that would 
prevent this from happening. In addition, the acquisition and 
subsequent transfer of fee title would allow the U.S. Forest Service 
access to an additional 87 acres it currently owns but has been unable 
to manage due to restricted access.
    In combination with the acquisition of the 158 acres described 
above, the Applicant proposes to contribute $366,758 to the Florida 
Scrub-jay Conservation Fund (Fund), administered by the National Fish 
and Wildlife Foundation (NFWF). Through an agreement between the 
Service and NFWF, scrub-jay mitigation funds deposited into the Fund 
are available for the conservation of Florida scrub-jays. Conservation 
efforts may include habitat acquisition, habitat restoration and 
habitat management.
    The Service has made a preliminary determination that the issuance 
of the ITP is not a major Federal action significantly affecting the 
quality of the human environment within the meaning of section 
102(2)(C) of NEPA. This preliminary information may be revised due to 
public comment received in response to this notice and is based on 
information contained in the EA and HCP.
    The Service will evaluate the HCP and comments submitted thereon to 
determine whether the application meets the requirements of section 
10(a)(1)(B) of the Act. If it is determined that those requirements are 
met, the ITP will be issued for incidental take of the Florida scrub-
jay. The Service will also evaluate whether issuance of the section 
10(a)(1)(B) ITP complies with section 7 of the Act by conducting an 
intra-Service section 7 consultation. The results of this consultation, 
in combination with the above findings, will be used in the final 
analysis to determine whether or not to issue the ITP.

    Dated: May 24, 2005.
Cynthia K. Dohner,
Acting Regional Director.
[FR Doc. 05-11705 Filed 6-13-05; 8:45 am]