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December 20, 2006 (Volume 71, Number 244)]
[Notices] [Page 76359-76361]
Receipt of an Application for an Incidental Take Permit for the Tucker Pond Low Effect Habitat Conservation Plan, Santa Cruz County, California
AGENCY: Fish and Wildlife Service, Interior.
ACTION: Notice of availability.
SUMMARY: Doug and Jennifer Ross (Applicants) have applied to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (Service or ``we'') for an incidental take 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 Santa Cruz long-toed salamander (Ambystoma macrodactylum croceum) and the threatened California red-legged frog (Rana aurora draytonii) incidental to otherwise lawful activities associated with the construction of private residential facilities on 16.5 acres of their 99-acre property in Aptos, Santa Cruz County, California.
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 (NEPA) 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 Santa Cruz long-toed salamander
and California red-legged frog. These measures are
outlined in the SUPPLEMENTARY INFORMATION section
below. The draft HCP and EAS are available for
The Applicants propose to construct on approximately 16.5 acres of land: A 7,500 square foot house with associated landscaping (main residence), a single-family dwelling, a 1,500 square foot caretaker house, a 2,000 square foot winemaking and agricultural equipment storage facility, a 2,000 square foot barn, septic systems, a swimming pool, a tennis court, a vineyard of approximately 5 acres, and an orchard. The Applicants propose to implement the following measures to minimize and mitigate take of the Santa Cruz long-toed salamander and California red-legged frog: Establish (with a conservation easement) and monitor a 38.8-acre preserve for the benefit of the Santa Cruz long-toed salamander and California red-legged frog; 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 construction area; control trash accumulation and install covered trash receptacles; install screens on irrigation, electrical, and other equipment to exclude Santa Cruz long- toed salamanders; surround the swimming pool with curbs to exclude Santa Cruz long-toed salamanders; remove nonnative plants; control bullfrogs; construct signs; use best management practices; and implement other minimization measures. The 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 two 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) most of the areas that would be disturbed during construction probably support few, if any, Santa Cruz long-toed salamanders and California red-legged frogs; (3) construction activities are not expected to affect Tucker Pond, where Santa Cruz long-toed salamanders are known to occur; (4) no sheltering habitat for Santa Cruz long-toed salamanders would be removed; and (5) California red-legged frogs are not expected to be present in the dry grasslands where the project will be built.
The Service's proposed action is to issue an incidental take permit to the Applicants, 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 Santa Cruz long-toed salamander and California red-legged frog. However, under this alternative, the Applicants would not be able to develop their property, and conservation measures for the Santa Cruz long-toed salamander and California red-legged frog would not be implemented. A second alternative would result in a redesigned project with the 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 to the western portion of the property would result in the removal of oak woodland, which is essential sheltering habitat for the Santa Cruz long-toed salamander. The Service considers the proposed development footprint as more desirable than development elsewhere on the property because the modification of habitat for the Santa Cruz long-toed salamander and California red-legged frog would not be significant, and establishment of a conservation easement including the breeding pond and upland habitat would benefit the Santa Cruz long-toed salamander and California red-legged frog.
The Service has made a preliminary
determination that the HCP qualifies as a ``low
effect'' HCP as defined by its Habitat
Conservation Planning Handbook (November 1996).
Our determination that a HCP 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 which 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:
The Service therefore has made a preliminary determination that approval of the HCP qualifies as a categorical exclusion under the NEPA, 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 NEPA 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
The Service provides this notice pursuant to
section 10(c) of the Act and pursuant to
implementing regulations for NEPA (40 CFR 1506.6).
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