[Federal Register Volume 60, Number 111 (Friday, June 9, 1995)]
[Notices]
[Pages 30580-30581]
From the Federal Register Online via the Government Printing Office [www.gpo.gov]
[FR Doc No: 95-13901]



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DEPARTMENT OF THE INTERIOR

Endangered and Threatened Species Permit Application

AGENCY: Fish and Wildlife, Interior.

ACTION: Notice of availability of the Final Environmental Impact 
Statement (EIS) on the Proposed Issuance of an Incidental Take Permit 
for Desert Tortoises in Clark County, Nevada.

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SUMMARY: This notice advises the public that the Final Environmental 
Impact Statement (EIS) on the proposed issuance of an incidental take 
permit for desert tortoises in Clark County, Nevada is available. The 
Record of Decision will be published no sooner than 30 days from this 
notice.

FOR FURTHER INFORMATION CONTACT: Dolores Savignano, U.S. Fish and 
Wildlife Service, 1500 North Decatur Boulevard, #01, Las Vegas, Nevada 
89108 or Carlos Mendoza, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, 4600 Kietzke 
Lane, Building C, Room 125, Reno, Nevada 89502.
    Individuals wishing copies of this Final EIS should immediately 
contact Christine Robinson, Clark County Manager's Office, 225 Bridger 
Avenue, Las Vegas, Nevada 89155. Copies of the Final EIS have been sent 
to all agencies and individuals who previously received copies of the 
Draft EIS and to all others who have already requested copies.

SUPPLEMENTARY INFORMATION:

A. Background

    On April 2, 1990, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (Service) 
issued a final rule (55 FR 12178) that determined the desert tortoise 
to be a threatened species under the Endangered Species Act of 1973, as 
amended (Act). That regulation became effective on the date of its 
publication in the Federal Register. Because of its listing as a 
threatened species, the desert tortoise is protected by the Act's 
prohibition against ``taking.'' The Act defines ``take'' to mean: to 
harass, harm, pursue, hunt, shoot, wound, kill, trap, capture or 
collect, or to attempt to engage in such conduct. ``Harm'' is further 
defined by regulation as any act that kills or injures wildlife 
including significant habitat modification or degradation where it 
actually kills or injures wildlife by significantly impairing essential 
behavioral patterns, including breeding, feeding, or sheltering (50 CFR 
17.3).
    The Service, however, may issue permits to carry out otherwise 
lawful activities involving take of endangered and threatened wildlife 
under certain circumstances. Regulations governing permits are in 50 
CFR 17.22, 17.23, and 17.32. For threatened species, such permits are 
available for scientific purposes, enhancing the propagation or 
survival of the species, economic hardship, zoological exhibition or 
educational purposes, incidental taking, or special purposes consistent 
with the purposes of the Act.
    Clark County; the cities of Las Vegas, North Las Vegas, Henderson, 
Mesquite, and Boulder City; and Nevada Department of Transportation 
(NDOT) (Applicants) submitted an application to the Service for a 
permit to incidentally take desert tortoises (Gopherus agassizii), 
pursuant to section 10(a)(1)(B) of the Act, in association with various 
proposed public and private projects in Clark County, Nevada. The 
proposed permit would allow incidental take of desert tortoises for a 
period of 30 years, resulting from development on up to 113,900 acres 
of private lands within Clark County, Nevada. The permit application 
was received September 28, 1994, and was accompanied by the Clark 
County Desert Conservation Plan (CCDCP), which serves as the 
Applicant's habitat [[Page 30581]] conservation plan and details their 
proposed measures to minimize, monitor, and mitigate the impacts of the 
proposed take on the desert tortoise.
    The Applicants propose to expend $1.35 million per year, and up to 
$1.65 million per year for the first 10 years, to minimize and mitigate 
the potential loss of desert tortoise habitat. It is anticipated that 
the majority of these funds will be used to implement mitigation 
measures as described in the CCDCP. In addition, funds will be provided 
to State and Federal resource managers for implementing desert tortoise 
recovery measures recommended in the Desert Tortoise (Mojave 
Population) Recovery Plan, and for planning and managing lands both 
within and outside of desert wildlife management areas. The desert 
tortoise is only part of the desert ecosystem, and unless the various 
species of plants and animals which co-inhabit that system are likewise 
preserved, the status of the desert tortoise is likely to decline. 
Therefore, the needs of other plant and wildlife resources will be 
addressed, possibly avoiding the need to list these species as 
threatened or endangered under the Act in the future. The Applicants 
also propose to purchase a conservation easement that preserves, 
protects, and assures the management and study of the conservation 
values, and in particular the habitat of the desert tortoise, of more 
than 85,000 acres of non-Federal land in Clark County.
    To minimize the impacts of take, the Applicants propose to provide 
a free pick-up and collection service for desert tortoises encountered 
in harm's way within Clark County. These desert tortoises will be made 
available for beneficial uses such as translocation studies and 
programs, research, education, zoos, museums, or other programs 
approved by the Service and Nevada Division of Wildlife. Sick or 
injured desert tortoises will be humanely euthanized. NDOT will 
incorporate specific measures into its operations to avoid or minimize 
impacts to desert tortoises. Clark County will also implement a public 
information and education program to benefit the desert tortoise and 
the desert ecosystem.
    Clark County or the cities would approve the issuance of land 
development permits for otherwise lawful public and private project 
proponents during the 30-year period in which the proposed Federal 
permit would be in effect. Clark County or the cities would impose, and 
NDOT would pay, a fee of $550 per acre of habitat disturbance to fund 
the measures to minimize and mitigate the impacts of the proposed 
action on desert tortoises.
    The underlying purpose or goal of the proposed action is to develop 
a program designed to ensure the continued existence of the species, 
while resolving potential conflicts that may arise from otherwise 
lawful private and public improvement projects.

B. Development of the Final EIS

    This Final EIS has been developed by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife 
Service. In the development of this Final EIS, the Service initiated 
action to assure compliance with the purpose and intent of the National 
Environmental Policy Act of 1969, as amended (NEPA). Scoping activities 
were undertaken preparatory to developing a Draft EIS with a variety of 
Federal, State, and local entities. A Notice of Intent to prepare a 
Draft EIS was published February 4, 1994 (59 FR 5439); a public scoping 
meeting was held February 14, 1994; and a Notice of Availability of a 
Draft EIS and Receipt of an Application for an Incidental Take Permit 
for Desert Tortoises in Clark County, Nevada was published February 10, 
1995 (60 FR 8058).
    Potential consequences, in terms of adverse impacts and benefits 
associated with the implementation of each alternative selected for 
detailed analysis, were described in the Draft EIS. The Service 
received 13 letters of comment on the Draft EIS which focused on the 
following subject areas: (1) Survey and removal of desert tortoises; 
(2) translocation of tortoises to a sanctuary; (3) euthanasia of 
tortoises; (4) measurable criteria for short-term and long-term 
conservation goals; (5) tortoise adoption; (6) effects to other species 
and resources; and (7) financing implementation of the CCDCP.
    Appendix A of the Final EIS contains copies of all comments 
received and responses to all comments received. The Final EIS was 
revised where appropriate based on public comment and review. Issues 
and potential consequences have remained identical from the draft to 
the final EIS.

C. Alternatives Analyzed in the Final EIS

    Two alternatives were considered. Issuance of the permit with the 
mitigating, minimizing, and monitoring measures outlined in the CCDCP 
is the Service's preferred action and is discussed above. The Draft EIS 
outlined alternative measures that were considered by the Service prior 
to issuance of the permit. The other alternative selected for detailed 
evaluation was a No Action alternative. The No Action alternative would 
benefit individual desert tortoises on private lands in the short-term, 
however, it has been determined that viable populations of desert 
tortoises will not persist in the urban areas over the long-term. The 
No Action alternative would, therefore, not provide the benefits of the 
long-term recovery efforts for the desert tortoise identified in the 
CCDCP. The No Action alternative was not identified as the preferred 
alternative because it would diffuse existing regional conservation 
planning efforts for the desert tortoise and possibly concentrate 
activity on individual project needs, not meet the purpose and needs of 
the Applicants, and not provide the long-term benefits to the desert 
tortoise. Additionally, the No Action alternative could result in 
adverse impacts to the social environment within Clark County due to 
constraints on land-use activities that would impact the desert 
tortoise.

    Dated: June 1, 1995.
Thomas Dwyer,
Deputy Regional Director.
[FR Doc. 95-13901 Filed 6-8-95; 8:45 am]
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