[Federal Register Volume 80, Number 131 (Thursday, July 9, 2015)]
[Pages 39444-39446]
From the Federal Register Online via the Government Publishing Office [www.gpo.gov]
[FR Doc No: 2015-16765]



Fish and Wildlife Service

[FWS-R8-ES-2015-N127; FXES11120800000-156-FF08EVEN00]

Proposed Low-Effect Habitat Conservation Plan for the Endangered 
Smith's Blue Butterfly for Repair of Five Bridges, Point Sur State 
Historic Park, Monterey County, California

AGENCY: U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, Interior.

ACTION: Notice of availability; request for comment.


SUMMARY: We, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (Service) have received 
an application from the Monterey District of the California Department 
of Parks and Recreation (CDPR, applicant) for a 10-year incidental take 
permit under the Endangered Species Act of 1973, as amended (Act). The 
proposed permit would authorize take of the federally endangered 
Smith's blue butterfly (Euphilotes enoptes smithi) incidental to 
otherwise lawful activities associated with the repair and 
reconstruction of five existing timber bridges located along the access 
roads to the Point Sur Light Station and Lighthouse at the Point Sur 
State Historic Park (PSSHP).
    The Service's proposed action is the issuance of a permit to the 
CDPR for a low-effect habitat conservation plan (HCP) for incidental 
take of Smith's blue butterfly. We are requesting comments on the 
applicant's permit application and on our preliminary determination 
that the proposed HCP qualifies as a low-effect HCP, eligible for a 
categorical exclusion under the National Environmental Policy Act 
(NEPA) of 1969, as amended. The basis for this determination is 
discussed in the Environmental Action Statement (EAS) and the 
associated low-effect screening form, which are available for public 
review, along with the draft HCP.

DATES: Written comments should be received on or before August 10, 

ADDRESSES: You may download a copy of the HCP, draft Environmental 
Action Statement, Low-Effect Screening Form, and related documents on 
the Internet at http://www.fws.gov/ventura, or you may request 
documents by U.S. mail or

[[Page 39445]]

phone (see below). Please address written comments to Stephen P. Henry, 
Field Supervisor, Ventura Fish and Wildlife Office, U.S. Fish and 
Wildlife Service, 2493 Portola Road, Suite B, Ventura, California 
93003, (805) 644-1766. Comments may also be sent by facsimile to (805) 

Biologist, at the above address or by calling (805) 644-1766.



    The Smith's blue butterfly was listed as endangered by the Service 
on June 1, 1976. Section 9 of the Act (16 U.S.C. 1531 et seq.) and its 
implementing regulations prohibit the ``take'' of fish or wildlife 
species listed as endangered or threatened. ``Take'' is defined under 
the Act to include the following activities: ``[T]o harass, harm, 
pursue, hunt, shoot, wound, kill, trap, capture, or collect, or to 
attempt to engage in any such conduct'' (16 U.S.C. 1532); however, 
under section 10(a)(1)(B) of the Act, we may issue permits to authorize 
incidental take of listed species. ``Incidental Take'' is defined by 
the Act as take that is incidental to, and not the purpose of, carrying 
out of an otherwise lawful activity. Regulations governing incidental 
take permits for threatened and endangered species are, respectively, 
in the Code of Federal Regulations at 50 CFR 17.32 and 17.22. Issuance 
of an incidental take permit also must not jeopardize the existence of 
federally listed fish, wildlife, or plant species.
    However, take of listed plants is not prohibited under the Act 
unless such take would violate State law. As such, take of plants 
cannot be authorized under an incidental take permit. Plant species may 
be included on a permit in recognition of the conservation benefits 
provided them under a habitat conservation plan. All species included 
in the incidental take permit would receive assurances under our ``No 
Surprises'' regulations (50 CFR 17.22(b)(5) and 17.32(b)(5)). In 
addition to meeting other criteria, actions undertaken through 
implementation of the HCP must not jeopardize the continued existence 
of federally listed plant or animal species.
    The Point Sur Lighthouse and Light Station are located on the Big 
Sur Coast in Monterey County, California at the Point Sur State 
Historic Park (PSSHP), located approximately 135 miles south of San 
Francisco and 23 miles south of the City of Monterey via California 
State Highway 1. This lighthouse has been in continuous operation since 
1889 and is accessible by a paved service road that leads to the top of 
Moro Rock at Point Sur and crosses five timber bridges in need of 
maintenance and repair. The PSSHP consists of four parcels managed by 
the CDPR. Collectively, these four parcels measure approximately 72 
    Surveys for both the larval and adult life stages of the Smith blue 
butterfly have been performed at PSSHP. Despite an intensive search 
effort, no life stages were observed; however, weather conditions may 
have hindered the surveys. Smith's blue butterfly life stages have been 
observed within dispersal distance of PSSHP and habitat at PSSHP is 
present; therefore, the Smith's blue butterfly is assumed present at 
the site.
    The proposed HCP and associated incidental take permit would 
authorize take of the Smith's blue butterfly. This take would be 
incidental to the CDPR's proposed replacement and repair of the five 
bridges, installation of permanent erosion control mats, and storm 
drain improvements, as well as future routine maintenance activities 
for the access road and its associated ditches. It would also cover 
revegetation activities that would occur at the bridge repair sites and 
other locations adjacent to the service road as well as at the dunes 
mitigation site located east and northeast of the base of Moro Rock. 
Impacts to Smith's blue butterfly from project-related activities will 
be primarily limited to small work areas associated with repairs to the 
five bridges and erosion control measures. Additional impacts would 
occur due to storm water improvements and periodic routine road and 
ditch maintenance. The total area of impact on Smith's blue butterfly 
habitat would be approximately 10,196 square feet (0.2341 acre).
    The CDPR proposes to implement general and specific conservation 
measures designed to avoid or minimize take of Smith's blue butterfly. 
To mitigate for unavoidable impacts, the CDPR proposes to restore 3.6 
acres of northern foredunes at the dunes mitigation site near the base 
of Moro Rock. Management goals include removal and control of invasive 
vegetation, erosion control; restoration of the northern foredune 
habitat including revegetation of Smith's blue butterfly seacliff 
buckwheat (Eriogonum parvifolium) habitat at a 3:1 ratio; and 
revegetation of other dune plants endemic to the dunes at PSSHP.
    Two alternatives to the proposed action are considered in the HCP. 
Under the No Action Alternative, the proposed project would not occur 
and an incidental take permit would not be issued by the Service. Two 
of the access bridges to the Point Sur Lighthouse would remain closed 
to all vehicular traffic. The conditions of the remaining bridges would 
continue to deteriorate, and existing erosion and storm water issues 
would not be corrected. Conservation measures described in the HCP 
would not be implemented and the restoration of the 3.6-acre dune 
mitigation site would not occur; therefore, the No Action Alternative 
is considered to have less conservation value to the covered species 
than the proposed project and accompanying HCP. Under the Redesigned 
Project Alternative, the areas of impact would be reduced at the five 
impact areas located along the access roads, which would likely result 
in reduced take of Smith's blue butterfly; however, smaller work areas 
would not allow the CDPR to properly repair the five timber bridges and 
correct the erosion and storm water issues.
    We are requesting comments on our preliminary determination that 
the CDPR's proposed project will have minor or negligible effects on 
the Smith's blue butterfly and that the plan qualifies as a low-effect 
HCP as defined by our Habitat Conservation Planning Handbook (Service 
1996). We base our determinations on three criteria: (1) Implementation 
of the proposed project as described in the HCP would result in minor 
or negligible effects on federally listed, proposed, and/or candidate 
species and their habitats; (2) implementation of the HCP would result 
in minor negligible effects on other environmental values or resources; 
and (3) HCP impacts, considered together with those of other past, 
present, and reasonably foreseeable future projects, would not result 
in cumulatively significant effects. In our analysis of these criteria, 
we have made a preliminary determination that the approval of the HCP 
and issuance of an incidental take permit qualify for categorical 
exclusions under the NEPA (42 U.S.C. 4321 et seq.), as provided by the 
Department of Interior Manual (516 DM 2 Appendix 2 and 516 DM 8); 
however, based upon our review of public comments that we receive in 
response to this notice, this preliminary determination may be revised.

Next Steps

    We will evaluate the permit application, including the plan and 
comments we receive, to determine whether the application meets the 
requirements of section 10(a) of the Act. We will also evaluate whether 
issuance of the section 10(a)(1)(B) permit would

[[Page 39446]]

comply with section 7 of the Act by conducting intra-Service section 7 
consultation for the plan. We will use the result of this consultation, 
in combination with the above findings, in our final analysis to 
determine whether or not to issue the permit. If the requirements are 
met, we will issue a permit to the applicant for the incidental take of 
the Smith's blue butterfly. We will make the final permit decision no 
sooner than 30 days after the date of this notice.

Public Review

    We provide this notice under section 10(c) of the Act and the NEPA 
public involvement regulations (40 CFR 1500.1(b), 1500.2(d), and 
1506.6). We are requesting comments on our determination that the 
applicant's proposal will have a minor or negligible effect on the 
Smith's blue butterfly and that the plan qualifies as a ``low-effect'' 
HCP as defined by our 1996 Habitat Conservation Planning Handbook.

Public Comments

    If you wish to comment on the permit applications, plans, and 
associated documents, you may submit comments by any one of the methods 

Public Availability of Comments

    Before including your address, phone number, email address, or 
other personal identifying information in your comment, you should be 
aware that your 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 view, we cannot guarantee that we will be able 
to do so.


    We provide this notice under section 10 of the Act (16 U.S.C. 1531 
et seq.) and NEPA regulations (40 CFR 1506.6).

    Dated: July 2, 2015.
Stephen P. Henry,
Field Supervisor, Ventura Fish and Wildlife Office, Ventura, 
[FR Doc. 2015-16765 Filed 7-8-15; 8:45 am]