[Federal Register: August 28, 2006 (Volume 71, Number 166)]
[Page 50942-50943]
From the Federal Register Online via GPO Access [wais.access.gpo.gov]



Fish and Wildlife Service

Receipt of an Application and Availability of an Environmental 
Assessment for an Incidental Take Permit for Urban Development Within 
the City of Palm Bay, Brevard County, FL

AGENCY: Fish and Wildlife Service, Interior.

ACTION: Notice.


SUMMARY: The City of Palm Bay (Applicant) requests an incidental take 
permit (ITP) pursuant to section 10(a)(1)(B) of the Endangered Species 
Act of 1973, as amended (Act). The Applicant prepared a Habitat 
Conservation Plan (HCP) identifying anticipated impacts to two 
federally-listed threatened species, the Florida scrub-jay (Aphelocoma 
coerulescens) (scrub-jay) and the eastern indigo snake (Drymarchon 
corais couperi). The Applicant also requests incidental take 
authorization for the gopher tortoise (Gopherus polyphemus) in the 
event this species becomes federally-listed as either threatened or 
endangered during the 30-year term of the requested ITP. Take of these 
species is anticipated as a result of residential, commercial, 
industrial, and municipal construction projects and associated 
infrastructure within the city limits of the City of Palm Bay. The 
Applicant's HCP describes the mitigation and minimization measures 
proposed to address the effects of urban development on the scrub-jay, 
eastern indigo snake, and gopher tortoise. These measures are outlined 

DATES: Written comments on the ITP application, HCP, and environmental 
assessment should be sent to the Service's Regional Office (see 
ADDRESSES) and should be received on or before October 27, 2006.

ADDRESSES: Persons wishing to review the application, HCP, and 
environmental assessment may obtain a copy by writing the Service's 
Southeast Regional Office, 1875 Century Boulevard, Suite 200, Atlanta, 
Georgia 30345 (Attn: Endangered Species Permits), or Jacksonville Field 
Office, Fish and Wildlife Service, 6620 Southpoint Drive South, Suite 
310, Jacksonville, Florida 32216-0912. Please reference permit number 
TE118199-0 in such requests. Documents will also be available for 
public inspection by appointment during normal business hours at the 
Service's regional office or the Jacksonville field office.

Coordinator, (see ADDRESSES above), telephone: 404/679-7313, facsimile: 
404/679-7081; or Mr. Mike Jennings, Fish and Wildlife Biologist, 
Jacksonville Field Office, Jacksonville, Florida (see ADDRESSES above), 
telephone: 904/232-2580.

SUPPLEMENTARY INFORMATION: If you wish to comment, you may submit 
written comments by any one of several methods. Please reference permit 
number TE118199-0 in such comments. You may mail comments to the 
Service's Regional Office (see ADDRESSES). You may also comment via the 
Internet to david_dell@fws.gov. Please include your name and return 
address in your Internet message. If you do not receive a confirmation 
from us that we have received your internet 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 address 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 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 (predominately in oak-dominated scrub). Increasing urban and 
agricultural development has resulted in habitat loss and fragmentation 
that has adversely affected the distribution and numbers of scrub-jays. 
The total estimated population is between 7,000 and 11,000 individuals.
    The eastern indigo snake is distributed in dry pinelands of the

[[Page 50943]]

extreme southeastern United States. In peninsular Florida, eastern 
indigo snakes occur in a variety of upland habitats but are most 
commonly associated with vegetative communities that occur in well-
drained soils. The number and status of eastern indigo snakes in 
peninsular Florida is not known because reliable survey techniques for 
this species are not available. Recent population modeling efforts 
suggest that eastern indigo snake populations are vulnerable to habitat 
fragmentation related to urban development and greater road densities.
    Gopher tortoises are widely distributed throughout the southeastern 
United States where they are typically found in association with xeric 
vegetative communities. Gopher tortoises require well-drained soils 
with relatively deep water tables in which to excavate their burrows. 
Habitat loss, degradation, and fragmentation due to urban, 
agricultural, and silvicultural development have resulted in a decline 
in the numbers and distribution of gopher tortoises throughout Florida.
    According to the Applicant's HCP, up to 20 families of scrub-jays, 
about 40 eastern indigo snakes living within 12,904 acres of potential 
habitat and about 1,233 gopher tortoises residing in 10,966 acres of 
potential habitat might be taken as a result of urban development. The 
Applicant intends to minimize impacts to listed species by: (1) 
Prohibiting land clearing during the scrub-jay nesting season if active 
nests are on or near properties to be cleared, (2) requiring that scrub 
vegetation be retained for landscaping or ornamental purposes within 
new development, and (3) developing Web-based public education 
information for the covered species. Mitigation measures proposed by 
the Applicant include the collection of environmental fees as a 
component of the local building permit issuance process. The Applicant 
anticipates that environmental fees collected over the duration of the 
requested permit period will be approximately $10.7 million dollars. 
The Applicant proposes to donate environmental fees to the Scrub-jay 
Conservation Fund that is administered by The Nature Conservancy (TNC). 
Pursuant to an agreement between the Service and TNC, donated 
environmental fees will be used for the acquisition, management, and 
restoration of scrub-jay habitat. The Service will review proposed 
acquisition, management and restoration of habitat funded by the City's 
environmental fees to ensure that the eastern indigo snake and gopher 
tortoise benefit as well.
    The Service has made a preliminary determination that issuance of 
the requested ITP is not a major Federal action significantly affecting 
the quality of the human environment within the meaning of Section 
102(2)(C) of National Environmental Policy Act (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 ITP application meets the requirements of section 
10(a) of the Act (16 U.S.C. 1531 et seq.). If the Service determines 
that those requirements are met, an ITP will be issued for the 
incidental take of the Florida scrub-jay, eastern indigo snake, and 
provisionally for the gopher tortoise. The Service will also evaluate 
whether issuance of this 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. This notice is provided pursuant to section 10 of the 
Endangered Species Act and NEPA regulations (40 CFR 1506.6).

    Dated: August 9, 2006.
Cynthia K. Dohner,
Acting Regional Director, Southeast Region.
 [FR Doc. E6-14245 Filed 8-25-06; 8:45 am]