Plan Encourages Conservation across Santa Clara Valley
30 day public review period begins
August 31, 2012
Sacramento, Calif., August 31, 2012 - Santa Clara Valley is a step closer to having comprehensive conservation in place. The Santa Clara Valley Habitat Plan (Plan) provides a framework for protecting and recovering natural resources, including endangered species, while streamlining the permitting process for planned development, infrastructure, and maintenance activities. A 30-day public review period begins, August 31, 2012, for the final version of the Plan.
When implemented, the Plan will oversee 500,000 acres in the permit area and permanently protect, manage, and monitor approximately 48,464 acres, including a majority of the Coyote Valley ridgeline, the last stronghold of the endangered Bay checkerspot butterfly and other critical serpentine soil species. It will also provide critical funding for land management activities available to enrolling parks, ranchers and more.
Rather than separately permitting and mitigating individual projects, the Plan evaluates natural-resource impacts and mitigation requirements comprehensively in a way that is more efficient and effective for at-risk species and their essential habitats.
The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (Service) is announcing the availability of the joint Final Environmental Impact Statement/Environmental Impact Report (EIS/EIR) on the Plan, along with the Final Implementing Agreement (IA), for review. The EIS/EIR was updated to address the comments received on the 2010 Draft EIS/EIR. We are considering issuing an incidental take permit to the County of Santa Clara; Cities of San Jose, Gilroy, and Morgan Hill; Santa Clara Valley Transportation Authority, and Santa Clara Valley Water District (Applicants) pursuant to section 10(a)(1)(B) of the Endangered Species Act of 1973, as amended.
A permit decision will be made no sooner than 30 days after the publication of the Environmental Protection Agency’s Final EIS/EIR notice in the Federal Register and completion of the Record of Decision. Go to www.fws.gov/sacramento to view these documents.
The Notice of Availability initiates a 30-day comment period, which will close on October 1, 2012.
In addition to strengthening local control over land use and species protection, the Plan will provide a more efficient process for protecting natural resources by creating new habitat reserves that will be larger in scale, more ecologically valuable, and easier to manage than the individual mitigation sites created under the current approach. The Plan also will help the Service meet the goals outlined in the 1998 Recovery Plan for the Serpentine Soil Species of the San Francisco Bay Area, a critical step in the eventual downlisting or delisting of effected endangered species.
The Applicants are requesting a 50-year Section 10(a)(1)(b) incidental take permit because 18 proposed Covered Species, including 9 animal species and 9 plant species, could be affected by development, operations and maintenance, and reserve management activities within the proposed 508,669-acre permit area, located in the Santa Clara Valley, California. Nine of the 18 species proposed for coverage under the Plan are currently unlisted species but are included in the Plan to help preclude the need for future listing.
Some of the species proposed for coverage under the Plan are the Bay checkerspot butterfly, California red-legged frog, California tiger salamander, western burrowing owl, least Bell’s vireo, Coyote ceanothus, Santa Clara Valley dudleya, and most beautiful jewelflower. If approved, the Plan would streamline the process for future incidental take authorization of Covered Species.
Covered Activities proposed in the Plan would result in the permanent loss of up to 17,975 acres. Effects resulting from Covered Activities would be offset with a conservation strategy consisting of avoidance, minimization, mitigation, and conservation actions. The Applicants propose to permanently protect, manage, and monitor approximately 48,464 acres of high quality habitat in the Plan’s Reserve System. Conditions on covered activities would further minimize effects on Covered Species.
Electronic files of the Final Plan, EIS/EIR, and IA are available at http://www.fws.gov/sacramento. Hard copies of these documents are available for review at the Service’s Sacramento Fish and Wildlife Office and the seven area libraries listed in the NOA. If you wish to comment on the Final EIS, HCP, or IA, you may submit your comments to the address listed in the NOA. The public may also mail comments to Cori Mustin, Senior Fish and Wildlife Biologist, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, Sacramento Fish and Wildlife Office, 2800 Cottage Way, W-2605, Sacramento, California 95825; FAX (916) 414-6713.