[Federal Register: December 19, 2005 (Volume 70, Number 242)]
[Page 75216-75217]
From the Federal Register Online via GPO Access [wais.access.gpo.gov]



Fish and Wildlife Service

Draft Environmental Assessment/Habitat Conservation Plan and 
Receipt of Applications for Incidental Take Permits for the Douglas 
County Board of Commissioners, the Town of Castle Rock and the Town of 
Parker for the Douglas County Habitat Conservation Plan, in Douglas 
County, CO

AGENCY: Fish and Wildlife Service, Interior.

ACTION: Notice of availability and receipt of applications.


SUMMARY: The Board of Commissioners of the County of Douglas, the Town 
of Castle Rock and the Town of Parker (Applicants) have each separately 
applied for an incidental take permit pursuant to section 10(a)(1)(B) 
of the Endangered Species Act (ESA) of 1973, as amended. The requested 
permits would authorize the incidental take of the federally threatened 
Preble's meadow jumping mouse, (Zapus hudsonius preblei) (Prebles), 
through the potential loss and modification of its habitat associated 
with the otherwise legal construction, use, maintenance, and repair of 
new and existing public facilities and with habitat improvements, along 
the mainstem and tributaries to the South Platte River, Plum Creek, and 
Cherry Creek, in Douglas County, Colorado. The duration of the permit 
would be 10 years from the date of issuance.
    We also announce the availability of a document combining the 
Service's Environmental Assessment (EA) and the Douglas County Habitat 
Conservation Plan (DCHCP) for public review and comment. The Service 
requests comments from the public on the permit applications and the 
EA. The permit applications include the proposed DCHCP and associated 
draft Implementing Agreement. The DCHCP describes the proposed action 
and the measures that the Applicants will undertake to minimize and 
mitigate to the maximum extent practicable the take of Prebles. All 
comments on the EA and permit applications will become part of the 
administrative record and will be available to the public. We provide 
this notice pursuant to section 10(a) of the ESA and National 
Environmental Policy Act regulations (40 CFR 1506.6).

DATES: Written comments on the permit application and EA/DCHCP should 
be received on or before February 17, 2006.

ADDRESSES: Comments regarding the permit applications and EA/DCHCP 
should be addressed to Susan Linner, Field Supervisor, U.S. Fish and 
Wildlife Service, Colorado Field Office, 755 Parfet Street, Suite 361, 
Lakewood, Colorado 80215. Comments also may be submitted by facsimile 
to (303) 275-2371. Individuals wishing copies of the EA/DCHCP and 
associated documents for review or public inspection should immediately 
contact the above office during normal business hours. Documents also 
may be accessed through the following Web site http://www.douglas.co.us

FOR FURTHER INFORMATION CONTACT: Adam Misztal, Fish and Wildlife 
Biologist, Colorado Field Office (see ADDRESSES), telephone (303) 275-



    Section 9 of the ESA and Federal regulations prohibit the ``take'' 
of a species listed as endangered or threatened. Take is defined under 
the ESA, in part, as to kill, harm, or harass a federally listed 
species. However, the Service may issue permits to authorize 
``incidental take'' of listed species under limited circumstances. 
Incidental take is

[[Page 75217]]

defined under the ESA as take of a listed species that is incidental 
to, and not the purpose of, the carrying out of an otherwise lawful 
activity under limited circumstances. Regulations governing permits for 
threatened species are promulgated in 50 CFR 17.32.
    The Applicants' original draft regional county-wide HCP, initiated 
at the time of listing in May 1998, focused on providing coverage for 
activities conducted by the Applicants as well as private landowners 
and other entities, addressed multiple plant, wildlife and fish 
species, and proposed a permit duration of 50 years. The Applicants 
continued to pursue the regional HCP approach until February 2005 when 
the Service announced its 12-month finding on the two delisting 
petitions and its proposal to remove Prebles from the List of 
Endangered and Threatened Wildlife (70 FR 5404 [February 2, 2005]). In 
light of the proposed delisting of Prebles, the Applicants considered 
the following alternatives--(1) the no action alternative, resulting in 
the status quo requiring compliance with the ESA on a project by 
project basis; (2) the regional HCP alternative, affording broad 
incidental take permit coverage; or (3) the proposed action (DCHCP), 
entailing scaling back the regional HCP to address only Prebles, and 
covering only activities conducted by the Applicants for a reduced 
permit duration.
    The Service's EA evaluates the environmental consequences of the 
three alternatives discussed above--the Proposed Action (the DCHCP); a 
Regional HCP; and No Action. The No Action alternative was rejected 
because it would likely have greater environmental impacts, would not 
provide as great a conservation benefit as the proposed action, and is 
more expensive and time consuming than the proposed action. While the 
Regional HCP alternative may provide greater conservation benefit to 
Prebles, it is not economically viable and no longer meets the 
Applicants' purpose and need, and thus was rejected. The draft EA 
analyzes the onsite, offsite, and cumulative impacts of the proposed 
action and associated development and construction activities and 
mitigation activities on the Prebles, and also on other threatened or 
endangered species, vegetation, wildlife, wetlands, geology/soils, land 
use, water resources, air and water quality, and cultural resources.
    The DCHCP delineates riparian areas and adjacent upland habitat on 
non-Federal lands with a high likelihood of supporting Prebles within 
the three major watersheds in the County (Plum Creek, Cherry Creek, and 
South Platte River upstream of Chatfield Reservoir), referred to as the 
Riparian Conservation Zone (RCZ). The DCHCP seeks to provide incidental 
take coverage for construction, maintenance, use, and closure of roads, 
bridges, trails, and recreational facilities, maintenance and repair of 
existing structures and facilities, emergency activities, habitat 
improvements that benefit the RCZ, and other necessary public 
improvement projects (covered activities) identified by the Applicants 
that need to be completed during the next 10 years. The permanent 
impacts to the RCZ associated with the covered activities are 
distributed throughout the County and the RCZ and will permanently 
affect a maximum of approximately 308 acres (125 hectares) (about 1.6 
percent of the RCZ) and temporarily disturb approximately 122 acres (49 
hectares) over the life of the permit. The DCHCP establishes an impact 
cap (including permanent and temporary impacts) of approximately 30 
acres (12 hectares) of the RCZ that will not be exceeded during the 
permit term absent amendment of the DCHCP and incidental take permits.
    The DCHCP sets forth measures to minimize and mitigate impacts to 
Prebles and its potential habitat through impact avoidance, restoration 
of temporary impacts, implementation of activity conditions and best 
management practices, and habitat preservation. The minimization and 
mitigation efforts identified in the DCHCP will likely provide a 
benefit to Prebles and other wildlife by protecting approximately 1,133 
acres (459 hectares), restoring portions of RCZ, and by providing a 
consistent riparian conservation strategy among the Applicants. The HCP 
addresses the proposed delisting of Prebles.
    We will evaluate the application, associated documents, and 
comments submitted thereon to determine whether the application meets 
the requirement of National Environmental Policy Act regulations and 
section 10(a) of the ESA. If we determine that those requirements are 
met, we will issue a permit to the Applicants for the incidental take 
of Prebles. We will make our final permit decision no sooner than 60 
days from the date of this notice.

    Dated: December 2, 2005.
Elliott Sutta,
Acting Deputy Regional Director, Region 6.
[FR Doc. E5-7491 Filed 12-16-05; 8:45 am]