South Florida Ecological Services Field Office
Southeast Region

 

Eastern Collier Property Owners, LLC
Habitat Conservation Plan and
Draft Environmental Impact Statement
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Overview

The US Fish and Wildlife Service (Service) is preparing an Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) related to permit applications from twelve Collier County, Florida landowners for the incidental take of listed species. The EIS is being prepared in accordance with the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA). The applicants are seeking Incidental Take Permits (ITPs) under Section 10 of the Endangered Species Act of 1973, as amended. If approved by the Service, the ITPs would authorize the incidental take of listed species resulting from residential and commercial development and earth mining activities as described in the Eastern Collier Multiple Species Habitat Conservation Plan (ECMSHCP). The ITPs would cover actions affecting eight federally listed species, one candidate for federal listing, two species under review for federal listing, and eight state-listed species found on approximately 151,779 acres in northeastern Collier County, Florida (covered lands).

Currently, the applicants include:

  • Alico, Inc.
  • Barron Collier Investments, Ltd.
  • Collier Enterprises Management, Inc.
  • Consolidated Citrus Limited Partnership
  • English Brothers Partnership
  • Gargiulo, Inc.
  • Half Circle L Ranch, LLP
  • Heller Bros. Packing Corp.
  • JB Ranch I, LLC
  • Owl Hammock Immokalee, LLC
  • Pacific Land, Ltd.
  • Sunniland Family Limited Partnership

Issuance of an ITP by the Service is a federal action subject to review under NEPA. The Service is preparing an EIS, in accordance with NEPA, to analyze the potential environmental effects of issuing the ITPs and implementing the ECMSHCP, and to consider potential alternatives to that action.


NEPA

The National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) (42 U.S.C. 4321 et seq.) is a law that requires federal agencies to assess the environmental effects of their proposed actions prior to making decisions. Using the NEPA process, agencies evaluate the environmental, social, and economic effect of their proposed action and alternatives to the action. The Service is responsible for ensuring NEPA compliance during the permitting process. Under NEPA, the Service must involve the public in the decision making process. Through the NEPA process, citizens and other federal, state, local, and Tribal entities have an opportunity to learn about the Service’s proposed actions and to provide additional information and comments to the Service.


Environmental Impact Statements

An Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) is a document prepared to comply with the requirements of NEPA. An EIS is intended to analyze and disclose the effects of a proposed federal action and its reasonable alternatives on the environment, including potentially significant short-term, long-term, direct, indirect, and cumulative effects. An EIS considers public and agency comments regarding the scope and scale of the proposed action and reasonable alternatives. With respect to the ECMSHCP, the EIS will consider alternatives, including the proposed action (i.e., the issuance of ITPs to the prospective applicants) and a no-action alternative (no implementation of the ECMSHCP and non-issuance of ITPs). It will also provide a detailed description of the proposed action and no-action alternatives as well as identify and analyze the potential significance of direct and indirect impacts from the proposed action and no-action alternatives to biological resources, land use, air quality, water quality, water resources, economics, and other environmental resources. The Service also will consider the strategies the applicants have proposed for avoiding, minimizing, and mitigating the impacts of incidental take from their proposed activities.


ESA and Incidental Take Permits

Section 9 of the ESA and the Service’s implementing regulations in the Code of Federal Regulations (CFR) at 50 CFR Part 17 prohibit the “take” of federally-listed “endangered” and “threatened” species (16 U.S.C. 1538). The ESA defines the term “take” as to harass, harm, pursue, hunt, shoot, wound, kill, trap, capture, or collect listed species or to attempt to engage in such conduct (16 U.S.C. 1532). “Harm” includes an act that actually kills or injures a listed species and may include significant habitat modification or degradation that actually kills or injures a species by significantly impairing essential behavioral patterns, including breeding, feeding, and sheltering [50 CFR 17.3]. Under section 10(a)(1)(B) (16 U.S.C. 1539) of the ESA, the Service may issue permits authorizing “incidental take” of listed species. “Incidental take” is defined as take otherwise prohibited but incidental to, and not the purpose of, carrying out an otherwise lawful activity [50 CFR 17.3]. Regulations governing incidental take permits for endangered species and threatened species, respectively, are found in 50 CFR 17.22 and 50 CFR 17.32.


Habitat Conservation Plans and the ECMSHCP

To receive an ITP, applicants must design, implement and secure funding for a conservation plan that avoids, minimizes and mitigates take of the listed species affected by their proposed activity. That plan is commonly called a habitat conservation plan, or HCP. HCPs are legally binding agreements between the Secretary of the Interior and the ITP holder.

The applicants have prepared the Eastern Collier Multiple Species Habitat Conservation Plan (ECMSHCP). In its final form, the ECMSHCP would include measures to avoid, minimize, and mitigate for incidental take with an emphasis on preserving some of the lands to maintain the viability and continued existence of populations of federally- listed threatened and endangered species. The ECMSHCP also would include a funding mechanism for the avoidance, minimization and mitigation measures, such as land acquisition, habitat mitigation, establishment of wildlife crossings, ecological restoration, land management, and actions to assist in the conservation of species through research. The proposed term of the ITP would be 50 years.

The applicants are seeking incidental take authorization for the following federally-listed species: Florida panther (Puma concolor coryi), Audubon’s crested caracara (Polyborus plancus) (alternatively identified as the northern crested caracara (Caracara cheriway)), eastern indigo snake (Drymarchon corais couperi), Everglade snail kite (Rostrhamus sociabilis plumbeus), Florida bonneted bat (Eumops floridanus), Florida scrub-jay (Aphelocoma coerulescens), red-cockaded woodpecker (Picoides borealis), and wood stork (Mycteria americana) (“covered species”). The gopher tortoise (Gopherus polyphemus), which is a candidate species, and the eastern diamondback rattlesnake (Crotalus adamanteus) and gopher frog (Lithobates capito), which are under review for federal listing, would also be included as covered species for which the applicants are seeking incidental take authorization. The applicants’ ECMSHCP would also cover the following state-listed and unlisted species: Big Cypress fox squirrel (Sciurus niger avicennia), Everglades mink (Neovison vison evergladensis), Florida sandhill crane (Grus canadensis pratensis), Florida burrowing owl (Athene cunicularia), little blue heron (Egretta caerulea), roseate spoonbill (Platalea ajaja), Southeastern American kestrel (Falco sparverius paulus), and tricolored heron (Egretta tricolor).

The covered lands of the ECMSHCP encompass approximately 151,779 acres in northeastern Collier County, Florida that surround the town of Immokalee. The covered lands are bordered to the south by the Florida Panther National Wildlife Refuge and Big Cypress National Preserve; to the north and east by the Okaloacoochee Slough State Forest; and, to the northwest by the Audubon Corkscrew Swamp Sanctuary. The applicants are proposing a conservation strategy in the ECMSHCP that would preserve a large portion of the covered lands as habitat for the covered species while conducting activities on smaller, clustered portions of the covered lands. Biologically, the ECMSHCP would focus on maintaining areas of high value habitat for the covered species while engaging in residential and commercial development and earth mining on 45,000 acres of the lands. The prospective applicants also would maintain suitable habitat within the impacted areas to ensure the availability of corridors for dispersal of the covered species.


Related Links & Documents

Habitat Conservation Plan and draft Environmental Impact Statement

Administrative Record


Contact Information

Constance Cassler, Project Supervisor
U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service
South Florida Ecological Services Office
1339 20th Street
Vero Beach, FL 32960
Telephone: (772) 469-4243

E-mail: Constance_Cassler@fws.gov



Last updated: February 20, 2020