[Federal Register Volume 67, Number 183 (Friday, September 20, 2002)]
[Notices]
[Pages 59304-59305]
From the Federal Register Online via the Government Printing Office [www.gpo.gov]
[FR Doc No: 02-23884]


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DEPARTMENT OF THE INTERIOR

Fish and Wildlife Service


Availability of an Environmental Assessment and Receipt of an 
Application for an Incidental Take Permit for the Antelope Road L.P. 
Property, Murrieta, CA

AGENCY: Fish and Wildlife Service, Interior.

ACTION: Notice of availability and receipt of application.

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SUMMARY: PCC II--Murrieta Oaks North, LLC (Applicant) has applied to 
the Fish and Wildlife Service (Service) for an incidental take permit 
pursuant to section 10(a)(1)(B) of the Endangered Species Act (Act) of 
1973, as amended. The Service is considering issuing a 5-year permit to 
the Applicant that would authorize take of the threatened coastal 
California gnatcatcher (Polioptila californica californica, 
``gnatcatcher'') incidental to otherwise lawful activities associated 
with the construction of a residential development (a maximum of 
approximately 387 residential units) on a 37.1-acre site in the City of 
Murrieta, Riverside County, California. The project would result in the 
incidental take of two pairs of gnatcatchers on the project site 
through permanent removal of approximately 35 acres of habitat.
    We request comments from the public on the permit application and 
an Environmental Assessment, both of which are available for review. 
The permit application includes the proposed Habitat Conservation Plan 
(Plan) and an accompanying Implementing Agreement. The Plan describes 
the proposed action and the measures that the Applicant will undertake 
to minimize and mitigate take of the gnatcatcher.

DATES: We must receive your written comments on or before November 19, 
2002.

ADDRESSES: Please address written comments to Mr. Jim Bartel, Field 
Supervisor, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, 2730 Loker Avenue West, 
Carlsbad, California 92008. You also may send comments by facsimile to 
(760) 431-5902.

FOR FURTHER INFORMATION CONTACT: Ms. Karen Evans, Assistant Field 
Supervisor, at the above address or call (760) 431-9440.

SUPPLEMENTARY INFORMATION:

Availability of Documents

    You may obtain copies of these documents for review by contacting 
the above office. Documents also will be available for public 
inspection, by

[[Page 59305]]

appointment, during normal business hours at the above address and at 
the Murrieta Public Library located at 39589 Los Alamos Rd., Murrieta, 
California.

Background

    Section 9 of the Act and federal regulations prohibit the ``take'' 
of fish and wildlife species listed as endangered or threatened. Take 
of federally listed fish and wildlife is defined under the Act to 
include ``harass, harm, pursue, hunt, shoot, wound, kill, trap, 
capture, or collect, or to attempt to engage in any such conduct.'' The 
Service may, under limited circumstances, issue permits to authorize 
incidental take (i.e., take that is incidental to, and not the purpose 
of, the carrying out of an otherwise lawful activity). Regulations 
governing incidental take permits for threatened and endangered species 
are found in 50 CFR 17.32 and 17.22.
    The Applicant is proposing development of residential housing 
(containing up to approximately 319 multi-family and 68 single-family 
residential units) on 37.1 acres. The project site is located at the 
northwest corner of Sierra Lane and McElwain Road in the City of 
Murrieta, Riverside County, California. Historically, the site has been 
disturbed by dry crop farming and grazing and more recently by discing 
for weed abatement and off-road vehicle use. The project site is 
surrounded by existing rural residential dwellings and roads and is 
subject to disturbance or degradation by domestic pets, human 
recreation, invasive plant species, noise, and weed abatement needs due 
to the proximity of humans and the small size of the site. The proposed 
project site is not directly connected to large blocks of suitable 
gnatcatcher habitat being considered by the Service and local agencies 
for the long term conservation of this species. The project site does 
not occur within designated critical habitat for the gnatcatcher.
    No gnatcatchers were detected during surveys conducted according to 
Service protocol in 2000. An apparently single male and a pair of 
gnatcatchers with an active nest were detected during protocol surveys 
in 2001. Based on these survey results, the Service concluded that 
implementation of the proposed project will likely result in take of up 
to two pairs of gnatcatchers through the permanent removal of 35.18 
acres of vegetation on the 37.1-acre site.
    Federally endangered Quino checkerspot butterfly (Euphydryas editha 
quino) were not detected on the project site during three years of 
surveys, 1999-2001. The federally endangered Stephens' kangaroo rat 
(Dipodomys stephensi, ``SKR'') may occupy portions of the proposed 
project site, though no SKR surveys have been conducted at the project 
site. Because the proposed project site occurs within the plan area 
boundary of the Habitat Conservation Plan for the Stephens' Kangaroo 
Rat in Western Riverside County, California (March 1996), compliance 
with the SKR Habitat Conservation Plan and its associated 
implementation agreement will be required prior to any ground-
disturbing activities.
    To mitigate take of gnatcatchers on the project site, the Applicant 
proposes to purchase credits towards conservation in-perpetuity of 74 
acres of riversidean sage scrub and two pairs of gnatcatchers from an 
off-site conservation bank (or banks) in western Riverside County. The 
conservation bank(s) collect fees supporting a management endowment to 
ensure their permanent management and monitoring of sensitive species 
and habitats, including the gnatcatcher.
    The Service's Environmental Assessment considers the environmental 
consequences of four alternatives, including: (1) The Proposed Project 
Alternative, which consists of issuance of the incidental take permit 
and implementation of the Plan and Implementing Agreement; (2) the No 
Action Alternative which consists of no permit issuance and no 
development at this time; (3) the Reduced Project Alternative, which 
consists of issuing a permit for development of either the multi-or 
single-family residences on half of the project site; and (4) the 
Different Location Alternative, which consists of relocation of the 
project to another site within the City of Murrieta. The alternatives 
to the Proposed Project Alternative would result in less long-term 
conservation for the gnatcatcher within western Riverside County, as 
they would not contribute as much, or at all, to conservation of areas 
within or directly connected to habitat being considered by the Service 
and local agencies for long-term conservation of the species. Thus, 
these alternatives would contribute less to the long-term survival and 
recovery of the gnatcatcher than the Proposed Project Alternative.
    This notice is provided pursuant to section 10(a) of the Act and 
the regulations of the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) of 1969 
(40 CFR 1506.6). All comments that we receive, including names and 
addresses, will become part of the official administrative record and 
may be made available to the public. We will evaluate the application, 
associated documents, and comments submitted thereon to determine 
whether the application meets the requirements of NEPA regulations and 
section 10(a) of the Act. If we determine that those requirements are 
met, we will issue a permit to the Applicant for the incidental take of 
the gnatcatcher. We will make our final permit decision no sooner than 
60 days from the date of this notice.

    Dated: September 13, 2002.
Ken McDermond,
Deputy Manager, California/Nevada Operations Office, Sacramento, 
California.
[FR Doc. 02-23884 Filed 9-19-02; 8:45 am]
BILLING CODE 4310-55-P