[Federal Register: August 18, 2008 (Volume 73, Number 160)]
[Page 48238-48239]
From the Federal Register Online via GPO Access [wais.access.gpo.gov]



Fish and Wildlife Service

[FWS-R8-ES-2008-N0193; 1112-0000-81440-F2]

Receipt of an Application for an Incidental Take Permit for the 
Santa Cruz Gardens Low-Effect Habitat Conservation Plan, Santa Cruz 
County, CA

AGENCY: Fish and Wildlife Service, Interior.

ACTION: Notice of availability.


SUMMARY: Porter-Livingston Development, Inc., a California-based 
corporation, and O'Hara-Balfour LP, a California Limited Partnership, 
(Applicants), have applied to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service 
(Service or ``we'') for an incidental take permit (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 Ohlone tiger 
beetle (Cicindela ohlone) incidental to otherwise lawful activities 
associated with the construction of nine new single-family residences 
on 2.96 acres of a 58.5-acre property in Aptos, Santa Cruz County, 
California. Effects from covered activities on, and conservation 
measures for, the federally threatened Santa Cruz tarplant (Holocarpha 
macradenia) and the non-listed Gairdner's yampah (Perideridia gairdneri 
ssp. gairdneri) are also being considered.
    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 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 
Ohlone tiger beetle, Santa Cruz tarplant, and Gairdner's yampah. 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 September 17, 

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 

FOR FURTHER INFORMATION CONTACT: Douglass Cooper, Fish and Wildlife 
Biologist, (see ADDRESSES) telephone: (805) 644-1766, extension 272.


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 to 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 Applicant owns 58.5 acres of property (Santa Cruz Gardens) that 
includes coastal terrace prairie, mixed grassland, non-native 
grassland, coastal scrub, coast live oak woodland, and riparian 
habitats. The project site is located in the Live Oak Planning Area, an 
unincorporated part of Santa Cruz County, north of the town of Soquel. 
Santa Cruz Gardens is situated approximately one-third of a mile north 
of Soquel Avenue and west of Rodeo Gulch Road. The property is bounded 
(approximately) by the terminus of Benson Avenue, Tiffany Court, and 
residential areas to the south; Thurber Lane to the west; Winkle Avenue 
and undeveloped lands to the north; and Rodeo Gulch Road to the east. 
Currently, the project site is undeveloped, but ranching, including 
grazing horses and/or livestock, previously occurred there. Existing 
surrounding land uses include single-family homes to the north and 
south, and commercial and higher-density multi-family housing to the 
south along Soquel Drive. Lower-density residential is located east of 
the site along Rodeo Gulch and across Thurber Lane to the west. The 
Applicant proposes to construct nine single-family residences, which 
include the footprints of the homes and associated access roads, 
driveways, sidewalks, and underground utilities on 2.96 acres of land. 
Development of this portion of the project site will result in the loss 
of approximately 1.24 acres of coastal prairie, 0.87 acre of mixed 
grassland-scrub mosaic, 0.65 acre of coast live oak woodland and 
eucalyptus groves, and 0.2 acre of an existing emergency access road.
    The Applicant proposes to implement the following measures to 
minimize and mitigate take of the Ohlone tiger beetle and effects to 
the Santa Cruz tarplant and Gairdner's yampah, including: Preserve 
(under a conservation easement), manage, and monitor a 9.3-acre coastal 
prairie/grassland management area for the benefit of the Ohlone tiger 
beetle, Santa Cruz tarplant, and Gairdner's yampah; 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 the construction area; control trash 
accumulation and install covered trash receptacles; remove invasive, 
nonnative plant species; construct signs; use best management 
practices; and implement other minimization measures. The

[[Page 48239]]

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 three 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) no individual Santa Cruz 
tarplants and Gairdner's yampahs have been observed above ground in the 
project site since 1993; (3) most of the areas that will be disturbed 
during construction support few if any Ohlone tiger beetles; and (4) 
construction activities are expected to have negligible effects to the 
three covered species at the property.
    The Service's proposed action is to issue an incidental take permit 
to the Applicant, 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 Ohlone tiger beetle, Santa Cruz tarplant, and 
Gairdner's yampah. However, under this alternative, the Applicant would 
not be able to develop the property, and conservation measures for the 
Ohlone tiger beetle, Santa Cruz tarplant, and Gairdner's yampah would 
not be implemented. A second alternative would result in a redesigned 
project with the reduction in the number of homes constructed and/or 
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 elsewhere on the property would result in 
the removal of coastal terrace prairie that is known to be occupied by, 
and provides essential habitat for, the Ohlone tiger beetle, Santa Cruz 
tarplant, and Gairdner's yampah. The Service considers the proposed 
development footprint as more desirable than development elsewhere on 
the property because the modification of habitat for the Ohlone tiger 
beetle, Santa Cruz tarplant, and Gairdner's yampah would be minimal, 
and establishment of a conservation easement would benefit the three 
    The Service has made a preliminary determination that the HCP 
qualifies as a ``low-effect'' habitat conservation plan as defined by 
its Habitat Conservation Planning Handbook (November 1996). Our 
determination that a habitat conservation plan 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 that 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 Ohlone tiger beetle, Santa Cruz tarplant, and Gairdner's yampah 
and their habitats. The Service does not anticipate significant direct 
or cumulative effects to the Ohlone tiger beetle, Santa Cruz tarplant, 
or Gairdner's yampah resulting from development and use of the Santa 
Cruz Gardens site.
    (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 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) 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 
National Environmental Policy Act, 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 National Environmental Policy Act 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 Applicant.

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: August 11, 2008.
Diane K. Noda,
Field Supervisor, Ventura Fish and Wildlife Office, Ventura, 
[FR Doc. E8-19074 Filed 8-15-08; 8:45 am]