[Federal Register: June 22, 2010 (Volume 75, Number 119)]
[Page 35504-35505]
From the Federal Register Online via GPO Access [wais.access.gpo.gov]



Fish and Wildlife Service

[FWS-R2-ES-2010-N097; 20124-1112-0000-F2]

San Rafael Cattle Company; Habitat Conservation Plan; Santa Cruz 
County, AZ

AGENCY: Fish and Wildlife Service, Interior.

ACTION: Notice of availability; Draft Low-Effect Habitat Conservation 
Plan in support of incidental take permit application.


SUMMARY: San Rafael Cattle Company (Applicant) has applied to the U.S. 
Fish and Wildlife Service (Service) for an incidental take permit (ITP) 
under the Endangered Species Act of 1973, as amended (Act). The 
Applicant has been assigned a permit number TE-12133A-0. If approved, 
the ITP would be in force for a period of 30 years, and would authorize 
incidental take of two species currently listed under the Endangered 
Species Act (Act), and two species that may become listed under the Act 
in the future (``covered species''). The proposed incidental take would 
occur in Santa Cruz County, Arizona, as a result of impacts on covered 
species and occupied habitat from specified actions conducted under the 
authority of the San Rafael Cattle Company. We invite public comment on 
the permit application and the associated documents.

DATES: To ensure consideration, we must receive any comments on or 
before July 22, 2010.

ADDRESSES: Persons wishing to review the application and/or the draft 
HCP may obtain a copy by written or telephone request to Steve Spangle, 
Field Supervisor, Arizona Ecological Services Field Office, 2321 West 
Royal Palm Road, Suite 103, Phoenix, AZ 85021-4951; telephone: 602-242-
0210; fax: 602-242-2513. Electronic copies are also available on the 
Arizona Ecological Service Field Office Web site: http://www.fws.gov/
arizonaes. All documents will be available for public inspection, by 
written request or by appointment only, during normal business hours (8 
a.m. to 4:30 p.m.) at the above address. Data or comments concerning 
the application and draft HCP should be submitted in writing to the 
above address or by e-mail at: Cat_Crawford@fws.gov. Please refer to 
permit number TE-12133A-0 when submitting comments.

FOR FURTHER INFORMATION CONTACT: Cat Crawford, Arizona Ecological 
Services Field Office--Tucson Suboffice, 201 N. Bonita Avenue, Suite 
141, Tucson, AZ 85745; telephone (520/670-6150; extension 232); or by 
e-mail (Cat_Crawford@fws.gov).

SUPPLEMENTARY INFORMATION: Under NEPA, we announce that we have 
gathered the information necessary to: (1) Determine the impacts 
related to the potential issuance of an ITP to the Applicant; and (2) 
approve the HCP, which provides measures to minimize and mitigate the 
effects of the proposed incidental take of federally listed species to 
the maximum extent practicable, pursuant to section 10(a)(1)(B) of the 
Act (16 U.S.C. 1531 et seq.)
    If approved, the 30-year ITP would authorize the proposed 
incidental take of four covered species, including species currently 
listed under the Act, as well as species that may become listed under 
the Act in the future: Sonoran tiger salamander (Ambystoma mavortium 
stebbinsi), Gila chub (Gila intermedia); northern Mexican garter snake 
(Thamnophis eques megalops) and Huachuca springsnail (Pyrgulopsis 
thompsoni). The requested ITP also includes two listed plant species: 
Spiranthes delitescens (Canelo Hills ladies'-tresses) and Lileopsis 
schaffneriana ssp. recurva (Huachuca water umbel). Although take of 
listed plant species is not prohibited under the Act, and therefore 
cannot be authorized under an ITP, plant species may be included on an 
ITP in recognition of the conservation benefits provided to them under 
an HCP.
    The proposed incidental take would occur as a result of ranch 
management activities occurring under the authority of the Applicant on 
non-Federal lands within 18,440 acres of the San Rafael Ranch in Santa 
Cruz County, Arizona. The Applicant has completed a draft HCP as part 
of the application package, as required by the Act. The application and 
associated documents provide measures to minimize and mitigate to the 
maximum extent practicable the effects of the proposed incidental take 
of covered species and effects to the habitats upon which they depend.
    Approval of the proposed HCP and issuance of the ITP may be 
eligible for

[[Page 35505]]

a categorical exclusion under NEPA (42 U.S.C. 4321 et seq.), as 
provided by Federal regulations (40 CFR 1500, 5(k), 1507.3(b)(2), 
1508.4) and the Department of the Interior Manual (516 DM 2 and 516 DM 
8). A categorical exclusion for a HCP is based on the following three 
criteria: (1) Implementation of the proposed plan would result in minor 
or negligible effects on federally-listed, proposed, and candidate 
species and their habitats; (2) implementation of the proposed HCP 
would result in minor or negligible effects on other environmental 
values or resources; and (3) impacts of the HCP, 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. Based upon the preliminary determination made in our draft 
NEPA screening document, we believe this action is covered by a 
categorical exclusion. We will consider public comments when making the 
final determination on whether to prepare an additional NEPA document 
on the proposed action.


    Since purchasing the San Rafael Ranch in 2000, the San Rafael 
Cattle Company has been implementing grazing practices that have 
improved range and habitat conditions on private lands within the San 
Rafael Valley of Santa Cruz County, Arizona. These improved habitat 
conditions provide opportunities for conservation actions that may 
enhance the status and distribution of covered species on the San 
Rafael Ranch. The San Rafael Cattle Company would like to continue 
ranch management activities while working with agencies to conduct 
conservation actions on the San Rafael Ranch such as introduction of 
covered species or other species and removal of aquatic invasive 
species. The covered area would encompass 18,440 acres of primarily 
open rangeland owned by the applicant. The covered ranch management 
activities would consist of watering and grazing by cattle in stock 
tanks and riparian habitats, including herding of cattle within 
pastures and between pastures; maintenance of stock ponds, wells, 
waterlines, fences, roads, and utility lines supporting these 
facilities; and brush and invasive plant management to reduce shrub 
invasion of upland grasslands. All of these activities have short-term 
impacts on species and their habitats, and incidental take of some 
covered species may occur. However, a long-term benefit is anticipated 
for the watershed and habitats of the covered species. In addition, San 
Rafael Cattle Company proposes actions to minimize the impacts of the 
activities and assist in recovery of covered species. These actions are 
also proposed to be covered by the associated section 10(a)(1)(B) 
    To meet the requirements of a section 10(a)(1)(B) permit, San 
Rafael Cattle Company has developed and will implement the San Rafael 
Ranch HCP, which provides measures to minimize and mitigate for 
incidental take of the four proposed covered animal species to the 
maximum extent practicable. The biological goal of the HCP is to 
provide long-term protection for multiple species of concern and key 
natural communities through maintenance or improvement of the habitat 
conditions and ecosystem functions necessary for their survival, and to 
ensure that any incidental take of listed species will not appreciably 
reduce the likelihood of the survival and recovery of those species in 
the wild.

Public Availability of Comments

    Written comments we receive become part of the public record 
associated with this action. Before including your address, phone 
number, e-mail address, or other personal identifying information in 
your comment, you should be aware that the entire comment--including 
your personal identifying information--may be made publicly available 
at any time. While you can ask us in your comment to withhold your 
personal identifying information from public review, we cannot 
guarantee that we will be able to do so.


    We provide this notice under section 10(c) of the Act (16 U.S.C. 
1531 et seq.) and its implementing regulations (50 CFR 17.22) and NEPA 
(42 U.S.C. 4371 et seq.) and its implementing regulations (40 CFR 

Benjamin N. Tuggle,
Regional Director, Region 2, Albuquerque, New Mexico.
[FR Doc. 2010-15057 Filed 6-21-10; 8:45 am]