[Federal Register: August 29, 2005 (Volume 70, Number 166)]


[Page 51084-51086]

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 Single-Family Home 

in Brevard County, FL

AGENCY: Fish and Wildlife Service, Interior.

ACTION: Notice.


SUMMARY: Maronda Homes, Inc. (Applicant) requests an incidental take 

permit (ITP) for a duration of 10 years, 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 requests a permit to remove about 

0.24 acre of Florida scrub-jay (Aphelocoma coerulescens) (scrub-jay) 

foraging, sheltering, and possibly nesting habitat incidental to lot 

preparation for the construction of a single-family home and supporting 

infrastructure in Section 23, Township 23 South, Range 35 East, Port 

St. John, Brevard County, Florida. The proposed destruction of 0.24 

acre of foraging, sheltering, and possibly nesting habitat could result 

in the take of one family of scrub-jays.

    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. The Fish and Wildlife Service 

(Service) has determined that the Applicant's proposal, including the 

proposed mitigation and minimization measures, will individually and 

cumulatively have a minor or negligible effect on the species covered 

in the HCP. Therefore, the ITP is a ``low-effect'' project and 

qualifies as a categorical exclusion under the National Environmental 

Policy Act (NEPA), as provided by the Department of the Interior Manual 

(516 DM 2, Appendix 1 and 516 DM 6, Appendix 1). We announce the 

availability of the ITP application and HCP for the incidental take 

application. Copies of the application and HCP 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 Endangered Species Act and NEPA 

regulations (40 CFR 1506.6).

DATES: Written comments on the ITP application and HCP should be sent 

to the Service's Regional Office (see ADDRESSES) and should be received 

on or before September 28, 2005.

ADDRESSES: Persons wishing to review the application and HCP may obtain 

a copy by writing the Service's Southeast Regional Office at the 

address below. Please reference permit number TE103390-0 in such 

requests. Documents will also be available for public inspection by 

appointment during normal business hours 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 Ms. Erin Gawera, 

Fish and Wildlife Biologist, Jacksonville Field Office (see ADDRESSES 

above), telephone: 904/232-2580, ext. 121.

SUPPLEMENTARY INFORMATION: If you wish to comment, you may submit 

comments by any one of several methods. Please reference permit number 

TE103390-0 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

[[Page 51085]]

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 (areas of dry, sandy soils, supporting the 

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 east-

central Florida has been exacerbated by tremendous urban growth in the 

past 50 years. Much of the historic commercial and residential 

development has occurred on the dry soils which previously supported 

scrub-jay habitat. Based on existing soils data, much of the historic 

and current scrub-jay habitat of coastal east-central Florida occurs 

proximal to the current shoreline and larger river basins. 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 the interruption of the natural fire regime, 

which is needed to maintain xeric uplands in conditions suitable for 


    Residential construction for Maronda Homes, Inc. would take place 

within Section 23, Township 23 South, Range 35 East, Port St. John, 

Brevard County, Florida on Lot 07, Block 59. This lot is within 

locations where scrub-jays were sighted during surveys for this species 

from 1999 to 2003.

    Scrub-jays affected by the issuance of this permit are found on the 

extreme western edge of a large area supporting a 16-family cluster of 

birds that inhabits urban areas, commercial development, and 

undeveloped native habitat in the Tico and Grissom territory cluster 

just south of Port St. John, Florida. This cluster of scrub-jays is 

part of a larger metapopulation complex of scrub-jays that persists in 

northern Brevard County. The number of scrub-jay families in the 

vicinity of the project site and in the northern Brevard County 

metapopulation has declined in recent years. Survey results indicate 

that the number of scrub-jay families has declined in the Tico and 

Grissom cluster from 72 in the early 1990s to 47 in 2002 (33 percent 

decline). Similarly, the number of families of scrub-jays within the 

northern Brevard County metapopulation, which includes the Tico and 

Grissom territory cluster, has declined from 102 to 67 families (34 

percent decline) during this same time period. Both of these observed 

rates of decline approximate the four percent per year decline 

estimated by recent research findings.

    The decline in numbers of scrub-jay families in northern Brevard 

County is the cumulative result of habitat destruction, fragmentation, 

and degradation. Metapopulation viability analysis suggests that this 

metapopulation of scrub-jays has a high quasi-extinction risk if no 

further conservation efforts are undertaken to acquire and manage land 

for the benefit of scrub-jays. However, with active acquisition and 

management of habitat in the metapopulation, the quasi-extinction risk 

decreases substantially.

    The demographic viability, and thus future biological value, of 

scrub-jays within highly urbanized areas (e.g., residential areas, 

industrial sites, and other commercial development) is problematic in 

most situations, but the contribution urban scrub-jays have on 

metapopulation dynamics is not certain. Research conducted in central 

Florida suggests that juvenile and adult scrub-jays living within urban 

areas have low survival rates and that the persistence of scrub-jays in 

these environments is largely dependent on immigration from other low-

quality habitat. In this instance, urban scrub-jays may have a negative 

impact on the demographic viability of the overall metapopulation since 

available breeders are essentially lost to habitats in which mortality 

exceeds recruitment. Other research conducted in east-central Florida 

suggests that recruitment will exceed mortality if optimal habitat 

conditions exist, regardless of whether the habitat is in a pristine or 

urban setting. In this case, urban scrub-jays would be as 

demographically important as scrub-jays in more pristine habitats.

    Regardless of whether the breeding territory is in an urbanized 

area or more pristine natural area, the success of a breeding pair is 

highly dependent on the quality of habitat within the territory. In 

most instances, scrub-jay habitat in urban settings is degraded due to 

long-term fire suppression and there is no indication that habitat in 

these settings will be managed in the future. Thus, we generally 

believe, and existing research supports, that in most urban settings, 

scrub-jays occupy less than optimal habitat and are therefore less 

demographically viable than birds occupying habitat in areas that are 

actively managed. Consequently, scrub-jays living within suburban areas 

of Port St. John and urbanized areas of Brevard County appear to be 

demographically doomed over the long term and the only potential 

biological value these birds currently have is in providing a source of 

breeders for other adjacent lands that are actively managed for 

conservation purposes. One such site is located approximately two miles 

north off of County Road 50 in the southern end of Titusville. The 52 

acres of scrub at this site is managed for scrub-jays through Brevard 

County's Environmentally Endangered Lands Program (EELS). Future 

acquisition is proposed by EELS for areas northwest and south of the 

project site, but until these lands are secured and managed, dispersing 

scrub-jays from the city may not find suitable habitat.

    Construction of the Applicant's single-family residence and 

infrastructure will result in harm to scrub-jays, incidental to the 

carrying out of these otherwise lawful activities. Habitat alteration 

associated with the proposed residential construction will reduce the 

availability of foraging, sheltering, and possible nesting habitat for 

one family of scrub-jays. The Applicant agrees to avoid construction 

during the nesting season if active nests are found on site, but no 

other on-site minimization measures are proposed to reduce take of 

scrub-jays. The lot

[[Page 51086]]

encompasses about 0.24 acre and the footprint of the home, 

infrastructure, and landscaping preclude retention of scrub-jay habitat 

on the project site. On-site minimization may not be a biologically 

viable alternative because of increasing negative demographic effects 

caused by urbanization.

    Based on the above information, scrub-jays in the vicinity of the 

Applicant's lot, currently have little long-term demographic value to 

the metapopulation overall. Consequently, the Service has determined 

that the loss of 0.24 acre of habitat is likely to result in only minor 

or negligible impacts on the species.

    The Applicant proposes to mitigate for the loss of 0.24 acre of 

scrub-jay habitat by contributing a total of $3,216 to the Florida 

Scrub-jay Conservation Fund administered by the National Fish and 

Wildlife Foundation. Funds in this account are earmarked for use in the 

conservation and recovery of scrub-jays and may include habitat 

acquisition, restoration, and/or management. The $3,216 is sufficient 

to acquire and perpetually manage about 0.48 acre of suitable occupied 

scrub-jay habitat based on a replacement ratio of 2 mitigation acres 

per 1 impact acre. The cost is based on previous acquisitions of 

mitigation lands in southern Brevard County at an average $5,700 per 

acre, plus a $1,000-per-acre management endowment necessary to ensure 

future management of acquired scrub-jay habitat.

    We have determined that the HCP is a low-effect plan that is 

categorically excluded from further NEPA analysis, and does not require 

the preparation of an EA or EIS. This preliminary determination may be 

revised based on our review of public comment we receive in response to 

this notice. Low-effect HCPs are those involving: (1) Minor or 

negligible effects on federally listed or candidate species and their 

habitats, and (2) minor or negligible effects on other environmental 

values or resources. The Applicant's HCP qualifies for the following 


    1. Issuance of the ITP would result in minor or negligible effects 

on the Florida scrub-jay population as a whole. We do not anticipate 

significant direct or cumulative effects to the Florida scrub-jay 

population as a result of the construction project.

    2. Issuance of the ITP would not have adverse effects on known 

unique geographic, historic, or cultural sites, or involve unique or 

unknown environmental risks.

    3. Issuance of the ITP would not result in any 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. Issuance of the ITP would not establish a precedent for future 

action or represent a decision in principle about future actions with 

potentially significant environmental effects.

    We have determined that issuance of this incidental take permit 

qualifies as a categorical exclusion under NEPA, as provided by the 

Department of the Interior Manual (516 DM 2, Appendix 1, and 516 DM 6, 

Appendix 1). Therefore, no further NEPA documentation will be prepared.

    We will evaluate the HCP and comments submitted thereon to 

determine whether the application meets the requirements of section 

10(a) 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. We 

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: August 3, 2005.

Sam D. Hamilton,

Regional Director, Southeast Region.

[FR Doc. 05-17068 Filed 8-26-05; 8:45 am]