[Federal Register: December 20, 2006 (Volume 71, Number 244)]
[Page 76359-76361]
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 
Tucker Pond Low Effect Habitat Conservation Plan, Santa Cruz County, 

AGENCY: Fish and Wildlife Service, Interior.

ACTION: Notice of availability.


SUMMARY: Doug and Jennifer Ross (Applicants) have applied to the U.S. 
Fish and Wildlife Service (Service or ``we'') for an incidental take 
permit pursuant to section 10(a)(1)(B) of the Endangered Species Act of 
1973, as amended (Act). We are considering issuing a 10-year permit to 
the Applicants that would authorize take of the federally endangered 
Santa Cruz long-toed salamander (Ambystoma macrodactylum croceum) and 
the threatened California red-legged frog (Rana aurora draytonii) 
incidental to otherwise lawful activities associated with the 
construction of private residential facilities on 16.5 acres of their 
99-acre property in Aptos, Santa Cruz County, California.
    We are requesting comments on the permit application and on our 
preliminary determination that the proposed Habitat Conservation Plan 
(HCP) qualifies as a ``low effect'' HCP, eligible for a categorical 
exclusion under the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) of 1969, 
as amended. We explain the basis for this possible determination in a 
draft Environmental Action Statement (EAS) and associated Low Effect 
Screening Form. The Applicants' low effect HCP describes the mitigation 
and minimization measures they would implement, as required in Section 
10(a)(2)(B) of the Act, to address the effects of the project on the 
Santa Cruz long-toed salamander and California red-legged frog. These 
measures are outlined in the SUPPLEMENTARY INFORMATION section below. 
The draft HCP and EAS are available for public review.

DATES: Written comments should be received on or before January 19, 

ADDRESSES: Please address written comments to Diane Noda, Field 
Supervisor, Ventura Fish and Wildlife Office, U.S. Fish and Wildlife 
Service, 2493 Portola Road, Ventura, California 93003. You may also 
send comments by facsimile to (805) 644-3958. To obtain copies of draft 
documents, see ``Availability of Documents'' under SUPPLEMENTARY 

Biologist, (see ADDRESSES) telephone: (805) 644-1766 extension 234.


[[Page 76360]]

Availability of Documents

    You may obtain copies of the application, HCP, and EAS by 
contacting the Fish and Wildlife Biologist (see FOR FURTHER INFORMATION 
CONTACT). Documents will also be available for review by appointment, 
during normal business hours, at the Ventura Fish and Wildlife Office 
(see ADDRESSES) or via the Internet at: http://www.fws.gov/ventura.


    Section 9 of the Act and Federal regulation prohibit the ``take'' 
of fish or wildlife species listed as endangered or threatened, 
respectively. Take of listed fish or wildlife is defined under the Act 
to mean harass, harm, pursue, hunt, shoot, wound, kill, trap, capture, 
or collect, or to attempt to engage in any such conduct. However, the 
Service, under limited circumstances, may issue permits to authorize 
incidental take; i.e., take that is incidental to, and not the purpose 
of, the carrying out of an otherwise lawful activity. Regulations 
governing incidental take permits for threatened and endangered species 
are found at 50 CFR 17.32 and 17.22, respectively. The taking 
prohibitions of the Act do not apply to federally listed plants on 
private lands unless such take would violate State law. Among other 
criteria, issuance of such permits must not jeopardize the existence of 
federally listed fish, wildlife, or plants.
    The Applicants own 99 acres of property (Ross Property) that 
includes grassland and coastal brush scrub habitats, in Aptos, 
California. The project site is located northeast of Highway 1 and 
south of Freedom Boulevard, in Aptos, Santa Cruz County, California. 
Typical land uses in the area surrounding the project site include 
several rural residences, a high school, and undeveloped oak woodland 
areas. The Applicants propose to construct on approximately 16.5 acres 
of land: A 7,500 square foot house with associated landscaping (main 
residence), a single-family dwelling, a 1,500 square foot caretaker 
house, a 2,000 square foot winemaking and agricultural equipment 
storage facility, a 2,000 square foot barn, septic systems, a swimming 
pool, a tennis court, a vineyard of approximately 5 acres, and an 
    The Applicants propose to implement the following measures to 
minimize and mitigate take of the Santa Cruz long-toed salamander and 
California red-legged frog: Establish (with a conservation easement) 
and monitor a 38.8-acre preserve for the benefit of the Santa Cruz 
long-toed salamander and California red-legged frog; hire a Service-
approved monitor and biologist; implement a construction worker 
education program; ensure monitoring of all grading, clearing, and 
other ground disturbing activities; mark construction area boundaries; 
construct drift fencing around construction area; control trash 
accumulation and install covered trash receptacles; install screens on 
irrigation, electrical, and other equipment to exclude Santa Cruz long-
toed salamanders; surround the swimming pool with curbs to exclude 
Santa Cruz long-toed salamanders; remove nonnative plants; control 
bullfrogs; construct signs; use best management practices; and 
implement other minimization measures. The conservation easement would 
be held by the Center for Natural Lands Management, a non-profit 
conservation organization located in Fallbrook, California.
    The impacts from the construction activities and use of the 
property associated with this residential construction project are 
considered to be negligible to the two species as a whole because: (1) 
The amount of habitat being disturbed is small relative to the amount 
of habitat available within the Applicant's property, Santa Cruz area, 
and within the range of the species; (2) most of the areas that would 
be disturbed during construction probably support few, if any, Santa 
Cruz long-toed salamanders and California red-legged frogs; (3) 
construction activities are not expected to affect Tucker Pond, where 
Santa Cruz long-toed salamanders are known to occur; (4) no sheltering 
habitat for Santa Cruz long-toed salamanders would be removed; and (5) 
California red-legged frogs are not expected to be present in the dry 
grasslands where the project will be built.
    The Service's proposed action is to issue an incidental take permit 
to the Applicants, who would then implement the HCP. Two alternatives 
to the taking of listed species under the proposed action are 
considered in the HCP. Under the No-Action Alternative, no permit would 
be issued, the proposed project would not occur, and the HCP would not 
be implemented. This would avoid immediate effects of construction and 
use of the property on the Santa Cruz long-toed salamander and 
California red-legged frog. However, under this alternative, the 
Applicants would not be able to develop their property, and 
conservation measures for the Santa Cruz long-toed salamander and 
California red-legged frog would not be implemented. A second 
alternative would result in a redesigned project with the relocation of 
the development footprint to another portion of the parcel. However, 
much of the property is too steep to be developed, and relocation of 
the footprint to the western portion of the property would result in 
the removal of oak woodland, which is essential sheltering habitat for 
the Santa Cruz long-toed salamander. The Service considers the proposed 
development footprint as more desirable than development elsewhere on 
the property because the modification of habitat for the Santa Cruz 
long-toed salamander and California red-legged frog would not be 
significant, and establishment of a conservation easement including the 
breeding pond and upland habitat would benefit the Santa Cruz long-toed 
salamander and California red-legged frog.
    The Service has made a preliminary determination that the HCP 
qualifies as a ``low effect'' HCP as defined by its Habitat 
Conservation Planning Handbook (November 1996). Our determination that 
a HCP qualifies as a low-effect plan is based on the following three 
criteria: (1) Implementation of the plan would result in minor or 
negligible effects on federally listed, proposed, and candidate species 
and their habitats; (2) implementation of the plan would result in 
minor or negligible effects on other environmental values or resources; 
and (3) impacts of the plan, considered together with the impacts of 
other past, present, and reasonably foreseeable similarly situated 
projects would not result, over time, in cumulative effects to 
environmental values or resources which would be considered 
significant. As more fully explained in our EAS and associated Low 
Effect Screening Form, the Applicant's proposed HCP qualifies as a 
``low-effect'' plan for the following reasons:
    (1) Approval of the HCP would result in minor or negligible effects 
on the Santa Cruz long-toed salamander and California red-legged frog 
and their habitats. The Service does not anticipate significant direct 
or cumulative effects to the Santa Cruz long-toed salamander or 
California red-legged frog resulting from development and use of the 
Ross Property.
    (2) Approval of the HCP would not have adverse effects on unique 
geographic, historic, or cultural sites, or involve unique or unknown 
environmental risks.
    (3) Approval of the HCP would not result in any cumulative or 
growth inducing impacts and, therefore, would not result in significant 
adverse effects on public health or safety.
    (4) The project does not require compliance with Executive Order 
11988 (Floodplain Management), Executive

[[Page 76361]]

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 
    (5) Approval of the HCP would not establish a precedent for future 
actions or represent a decision in principle about future actions with 
potentially significant environmental effects.
    The Service therefore has made a preliminary determination that 
approval of the HCP qualifies as a categorical exclusion under the 
NEPA, as provided by the Department of the Interior Manual (516 DM 2, 
Appendix 1 and 516 DM 6, Appendix 1). Based upon this preliminary 
determination, we do not intend to prepare further NEPA documentation. 
The Service will consider public comments in making its final 
determination on whether to prepare such additional documentation.
    We will evaluate the permit application, the HCP, and comments 
submitted thereon to determine whether the application meets the 
requirements of section 10(a) of the Act. If the requirements are met, 
the Service will issue a permit to the Applicants.

Public Review and Comment

    If you wish to comment on the permit application, draft 
Environmental Action Statement or the proposed HCP, you may submit your 
comments to the address listed in the ADDRESSES section of this 
document. Our practice is to make comments, including names, home 
addresses, etc., of respondents available for public review. Individual 
respondents may request that we withhold their names and/or home 
addresses, etc., but if you wish us to consider withholding this 
information you must state this prominently at the beginning of your 
comments. In addition, you must provide a rationale demonstrating and 
documenting that disclosure would constitute a clearly unwarranted 
invasion of privacy. In the absence of exceptional, documented 
circumstances, this information will be released. All submissions from 
organizations or businesses, and from individuals identifying 
themselves as representatives or officials of organizations or 
businesses, are available for public inspection in their entirety.
    The Service provides this notice pursuant to section 10(c) of the 
Act and pursuant to implementing regulations for NEPA (40 CFR 1506.6).

    Dated: December 13, 2006.
Diane K. Noda,
Field Supervisor, Ventura Fish and Wildlife Office, Ventura, 
[FR Doc. E6-21714 Filed 12-19-06; 8:45 am]