[Federal Register Volume 77, Number 236 (Friday, December 7, 2012)]
[Pages 73045-73048]
From the Federal Register Online via the Government Publishing Office [www.gpo.gov]
[FR Doc No: 2012-29391]



Fish and Wildlife Service

[FWS-R2-ES-2012-N025; FXES11120200000F2-134-FF02ENEH00]

Draft Environmental Impact Statement and Draft Pima County Multi-
Species Habitat Conservation Plan; Pima County, AZ

AGENCY: Fish and Wildlife Service, Interior.

ACTION: Notice of availability; notice of public meetings.


SUMMARY: We, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (Service), have 
received an application from Pima County and the Pima County Regional 
Flood Control District (applicants) for an incidental take permit (ITP) 
under the Endangered Species Act of 1973, as amended (Act). The 
application has been assigned permit number TE84356A. If approved, the 
permit would be in effect for a period of 30 years, and would authorize 
incidental take of 5 animal species and impacts to 2 plant species 
currently listed under the Act, as well as impacts to 4 candidate 
species and 33 species that may become listed under the Act in the 
future (collectively, ``covered species''). The proposed incidental 
take or impacts would occur in Pima County and adjacent counties in 
Arizona, as a result of specific actions conducted under the authority 
of the applicants. We are making the application and associated 
documents available for public review, and we invite public comments.

DATES: To ensure consideration, we must receive any comments on or 

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March 15, 2013. We will also accept written comments at a public 
meeting to be held on February 21, 2013, from 4:00 p.m. to 6:00 p.m. 
(see address below). We must receive any requests for additional public 
meetings, in writing, at the address shown in the ADDRESSES section by 
January 7, 2013.

ADDRESSES: The public informational meeting will be held at the Pima 
County Natural Resources Parks and Recreation Conference Room at 3500 
W. River Road, Tucson, AZ 85741. Send requests for additional public 
meetings to the Field Supervisor, Arizona Ecological Services Office, 
2321 West Royal Palm Road, Suite 103, Phoenix, AZ 85021. To obtain 
documents for review and submit comments, see ``Reviewing Documents and 

FOR FURTHER INFORMATION CONTACT: Permit Application, Draft Pima County 
Multi-Species Conservation Plan, draft Environmental Impact Statement, 
and draft Implementing Agreement: Contact Jeff Servoss, by U.S. mail at 
the Arizona Ecological Services Office--Tucson Suboffice, 201 N. Bonita 
Avenue, Suite 141, Tucson, AZ 85745; by telephone at 520-670-6150 
extension 231; or by email at [email protected]. Download copies 
for review at: http://www.fws.gov/southwest/es/arizona.

SUPPLEMENTARY INFORMATION: Under the National Environmental Policy Act 
(NEPA), we advise the public that:
    1. We have gathered the information necessary to determine the 
impacts and formulate the alternatives for the draft Environmental 
Impact Statement (EIS), related to the potential issuance of an 
Incidental Take Permit (ITP) to the Applicants; and
    2. Pima County has developed a draft habitat conservation plan--the 
Pima County Multi-Species Conservation Plan (MSCP), which describes the 
measures Pima County has agreed to implement to minimize and mitigate 
the effects of the proposed incidental take of federally listed 
species, and unlisted covered species, to the maximum extent 
practicable, pursuant to section 10(a)(1)(B) of the Endangered Species 
Act (16 U.S.C. 1531 et seq.) (Act).
    If approved, the 30-year ITP would authorize incidental take of 40 
animal species. Among the 40 species are 5 species currently listed 
under the Act:
     Southwestern willow flycatcher (Empidonax traillii 
     Lesser long-nosed bat (Leptonycteris curasoae yerbabuenae)
     Gila topminnow (Poeciliopsis occidentalis)
     Gila chub (Gila intermedia)
     Chiricahua leopard frog (Lithobates chiricahuensis)
    Also among the 40 species are 4 candidate species:
     Northern Mexican gartersnake (Thamnophis eques megalops)
     Western yellow-billed cuckoo (Coccyzus americanus)
     Tucson shovel-nosed snake (Chionactis occipitalis 
     Desert tortoise, Sonoran population (Gopherus agassizii)
    The 40 species also include 31 species that would be covered should 
they become listed under the Act within the term of the permit:
     Mexican long-tongued bat (Choeronycteris mexicana)
     Western red bat (Lasiurus blossevillii)
     Southern yellow bat (Lasiurus xanthinus)
     California leaf-nosed bat (Macrotus californicus)
     Pale Townsend's big-eared bat (Plecotus townsendii 
     Merriam's mouse (Peromyscus merriami)
     Burrowing owl (Athene cunicularia hypugaea)
     Cactus ferruginous pygmy-owl (Glaucidium brasilianum 
     Rufous-winged sparrow (Aimophila carpalis)
     Swainson's hawk (Buteo swainsoni)
     Abert's towhee (Pipilo aberti)
     Bell's vireo (Vireo bellii)
     Desert box turtle (Terrapene ornata luteola)
     Ground-snake (Sonora semiannulata)
     Giant spotted whiptail (Aspidoscelis burti stictogramma)
     Lowland leopard frog (Lithobates yavapaiensis)
     Longfin dace (Agosia chrysogaster)
     Desert sucker (Catostomus clarki)
     Sonora sucker (Catostomus insignis)
     San Xavier talus snail (Sonorella eremite)
     Talus snail species (Sonorella ambigua ambigua syn. 
     Talus snail species (Sonorella imperatrix)
     Talus snail species (Sonorella imperialis)
     Talus snail species (Sonorella magdalenensis syn. 
     Talus snail species (Sonorella odorata odorata syn. 
     Talus snail species (Sonorella insignis)
     Talus snail species (Sonorella rinconensis)
     Talus snail species (Sonorella sabinoenis buehmanensis)
     Talus snail species (Sonorella sabinoensis tucsonica)
     Talus snail species (Sonorella sitiens sitiens)
     Talus snail species (Sonorella tortillita)
    Although take of listed plant species is not prohibited under the 
Act, plant species may be included in a habitat conservation plan to 
formally document the conservation benefits provided to them through 
that process. The applicants propose four plant species for coverage 
under their MSCP, including two listed species (Huachuca water umbel 
(Lilaeopsis schaffneriana recurva) and Pima pineapple cactus 
(Coryphantha scheeri var. robustispina)) and two unlisted species 
(needle-spined pineapple cactus (Echinomastus erectocentrus var. 
erectocentrus) and Tumamoc globeberry (Tumamoca macdougalii)).
    The proposed incidental take would occur within Pima County, 
Arizona, as a result of impacts from actions occurring under the 
authority of the applicants. The applicants have completed a draft 
habitat conservation plan as part of the application package, as 
required by the Act. The application and associated documents describe 
measures the applicants have agreed to implement to minimize and 
mitigate--to the maximum extent practicable--the effects of the 
proposed incidental take of covered species and impacts to habitats on 
which they depend. The draft EIS considers the direct, indirect, and 
cumulative effects of the proposed action of permit issuance, including 
the measures that will be implemented to minimize and mitigate such 
impacts to the maximum extent practicable.


    In the past 50 years, Pima County, Arizona, has had one of the 
fastest growing human populations of any county in the United States 
(an increase of just under 500 percent), as a result of a sunny 
climate, natural beauty, and economic opportunities. Urban growth has 
resulted in significant development, which is expected to continue in 
the foreseeable future. A significant proportion of the predicted 
future development is anticipated to occur in the undeveloped or 
underdeveloped areas, particularly in the eastern portion of the 
    The presence of threatened and endangered species in the areas of 
potential land development creates regulatory concerns in Pima County. 
Interest in conservation and its potential related costs (e.g., land 
acquisition or set-asides) is found across many segments of the 
community, ranging from environmental advocates promoting strengthened 
protections, to members of the business community, the development 
industry, and real estate profession, all of whom may be concerned 
about potential economic

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impacts. Landowners and private property interests are concerned about 
how their land-use decisions can potentially be affected by the 
presence of federally listed threatened and endangered species.
    A long-term solution to ensure compliance with the Act, 
particularly in areas such as Pima County, where there are multiple 
listed and unlisted species of concern, is to develop a multi-species 
habitat conservation plan (MSCP). The Pima County MSCP proposes a 
combination of long-term and short-term actions and long-range planning 
to protect and enhance the natural environment. The Pima County MSCP 
would help guide public investments in both infrastructure and 
conservation, as well as establish the applicants' preferences for the 
expenditure of funds to preserve and reduce the threats posed by 
urbanization to habitat through ranch conservation and open space 
programs. If the Service approves the ITP, the applicants would commit 
to a series of measures that would avoid, minimize, and mitigate 
impacts of covered activities on the covered species. The commitments 
vary according to the alternatives described below and would have 
differing impacts on socioeconomics, habitat, and other aspects of the 
    The objective of the Pima County MSCP is to achieve a balance 
     Long-term conservation of the diversity of natural 
vegetation communities and native species of plants and animals that 
make up an important part of the natural heritage and allure of Pima 
County; and
     The orderly use of land to promote a sustainable economy, 
health, well-being, customs, and culture of the growing population of 
Pima County.
    In addition, the Pima County MSCP has been designed to:
     Meet the requirements for the applicants to receive an 
ITP--pursuant to section 10 of the Act--that would allow for the 
incidental take of threatened and endangered species while engaging in 
otherwise lawful activities.
     Provide conservation benefits to species and ecosystems in 
Pima County that would not otherwise occur without the MSCP.
     Maximize flexibility and available options in developing 
mitigation and conservation programs.
     Minimize uncoordinated decision making, which can result 
in incremental habitat loss and inefficient project review.
     Provide a decision-making framework that minimizes habitat 
loss and maximizes the efficiency of public-sector projects.
     Provide the applicants and their community stakeholders 
(participants) with long-term planning assurances.
     Cover an appropriate range of activities under the permit.
     Reduce the regulatory burden of compliance with the Act 
for the applicants and all affected participants.
     Avoid, minimize, and mitigate for the impacts of 
activities that would result in take of threatened and endangered 
species and provide long-term management and monitoring programs to 
help ensure program effectiveness.
     Designate the funding that would be available to implement 
the Pima County MSCP over the entirety of its proposed term.

Purpose and Need for Action

    We prepared the draft EIS to respond to the applicants' request for 
an ITP for the proposed covered species related to activities that have 
the potential to result in incidental take. The need for this action is 
based on the potential that activities proposed by the applicants on 
lands under their jurisdiction could result in incidental take of 
covered species, thus requiring an ITP. Section 9 of the Act prohibits 
the ``taking'' of threatened and endangered species. We are authorized, 
however, under limited circumstances, to issue permits to take 
federally listed species, when such a taking is incidental to, and not 
the purpose of, otherwise lawful activities. Regulations governing 
permits for endangered and threatened species are in the Code of 
Federal Regulations (CFR) at 50 CFR 17.22 and 17.32, respectively. The 
term ``take'' under the Act means to harass, harm, pursue, hunt, shoot, 
would, kill, trap, capture, or collect endangered and threatened 
species, or to attempt to engage in any such conduct. Our regulations 
define ``harm'' as significant habitat modification or degradation that 
results in death or injury to listed species by significantly impairing 
essential behavioral patterns, including breeding, feeding, or 
sheltering (50 CFR 17.3). The proposed ITP would authorize incidental 
take that is consistent with the conservation guidelines in the 
applicants' MSCP. The development and implementation of the MSCP will 
ensure that the Applicants meet the criteria for issuance of the ITP 
found in section 10(a)(1)(B) of the Act:
    1. The taking will be incidental;
    2. The applicants will, to the maximum extent practicable, minimize 
and mitigate the impact of such taking;
    3. The applicants will develop a proposed conservation plan and 
ensure that adequate funding for the plan will be provided;
    4. The taking will not appreciably reduce the likelihood of the 
survival and recovery of the species in the wild; and
    5. The applicants will carry out any other measures that the 
Service may require as being necessary or appropriate.

Proposed Action

    The proposed action is the issuance of an ITP for covered species 
within the permit area, principally located in Pima County, Arizona, 
under section 10(a)(1)(B) of the Act. Incidental take anticipated under 
this ITP application is species- and location-specific, and may include 
lethal take of individuals, as well as take in the form of harm through 
habitat loss or modification. The applicants would develop and 
implement the MSCP, as required by section 10(a)(2)(A) of the Act. The 
MSCP will describe the measures the applicants have agreed to implement 
to minimize and mitigate the effects of the proposed incidental take on 
covered species and their habitats. The goal of the MSCP is to provide 
long-term protection for multiple species of concern by avoiding, 
minimizing, and mitigating covered impacts; improving habitat 
conditions and ecosystem functions necessary for their survival; and to 
ensure that any incidental take of listed species will not reduce the 
likelihood of their survival and recovery in the wild.
    The requested duration of the ITP is 30 years. The areas covered by 
the proposed ITP include: (1) Lands owned by the applicants, including 
those within the cities and towns of Tucson, Marana, Oro Valley, and 
Sahuarita, and adjacent counties; (2) lands where the applicants 
construct or maintain infrastructure, including lands within the cities 
and towns of Tucson, Marana, Oro Valley, and Sahuarita, and adjacent 
counties; (3) State lands that are or would be leased by the applicants 
or used as road easements; (4) private lands in unincorporated Pima 
County under the regulatory authority of the applicants; and (5) 
certain State Trust and Federal lands for which the title has been 
acquired by private entities or the applicants and thus have become 
subject to regulatory control of the applicants. Activities proposed 
for coverage under the ITP include, but are not limited to, 
undertakings by the applicants such as construction and maintenance 
activities and certain permits and approvals issued that allow

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for ground disturbance on privately owned properties. The proposed MSCP 
includes an opt-in program whereby certain private entities, on a 
voluntary basis, could gain coverage for their lands under the 
applicants' ITP. The total acreage of impact for all covered activities 
would be capped at 36,000 acres.


    The following is a brief summary of the four alternatives evaluated 
in the draft EIS and draft MSCP (for details, refer to those 
    1. No Action Alternative. The applicants would not request and the 
Service would not issue a Section 10(a)(1)(B) permit. This alternative 
would require the applicants and developers of certain privately owned 
lands to evaluate each project or action on a case-by-case basis to 
address issues under the Act and avoid take of federally listed 
species. This alternative is the baseline against which the effects of 
the other alternatives are compared.
    2. Permit for Applicants' Activities Only. The Service would issue 
a section 10(a)(1)(B) permit for coverage of 44 species that would 
apply only to activities that the applicants undertake.
    3. Permit for Applicants' Activities and Automatic Coverage of 
Private Development Activities for which the County issues permits and 
approvals. Under this alternative, the Service would issue a section 
10(a)(1)(B) permit for coverage of 44 species that would apply to 
activities that the applicants undertake, and would also cover most 
ground-disturbing private development within unincorporated Pima 
County, at no additional cost to the developer, for which the county 
issues a permit or approves a plan.
    4. Preferred Alternative: Permit for Applicants' Activities and 
Certain Private Development Activities, some of which gain permit 
coverage with an opt-in provision. The Service would issue a section 
10(a)(1)(B) permit for coverage of 44 species that would apply to 
activities that the applicants undertake, that would confer automatic 
coverage to a specified set of private development activities, and 
would confer coverage to certain private development activities where 
the developer voluntarily exercises the opt-in provision.

Public Comments

    We request data, comments, new information, or suggestions from the 
public, other concerned governmental agencies, the scientific 
community, Tribes, industry, or any other interested party regarding 
this notice. We will consider these comments in developing a final EIS, 
final MSCP, and the incidental take permit (ITP). We particularly seek 
comments on the following:
    1. Additional biological information relevant to the species, 
including information concerning the range, distribution, population 
size, and population trends of the species;
    2. Current or planned activities in the subject area and their 
possible impacts on the species;
    3. The presence of archeological sites, buildings and structures, 
historic events, sacred and traditional areas, and other historic 
preservation concerns, which are required to be considered in project 
planning by the National Historic Preservation Act; and
    4. Identification of any other environmental issues that should be 
considered with regard to the proposed MSCP and permit decision.

Reviewing Documents

    Please refer to TE84356A when requesting documents or submitting 
    Downloadable copies of the draft MSCP and draft Implementing 
Agreement (IA) may be found on the Internet at http://www.pima.gov/cmo/sdcp/MSCP/MSCP.html and the draft EIS is available at http://www.fws.gov/southwest/es/arizona. For those without access to the 
Internet, a printed or CD-ROM copy of these documents is available upon 
request to Ms. Julia Fonseca, Pima County Office of Sustainability and 
Conservation, 201 N. Stone, 6th floor, Tucson, AZ 85701, phone (520) 
740-6460, or email [email protected]. Additionally, persons wishing to 
review the draft MSCP, draft IA, and draft EIS may obtain copies by 
calling or faxing the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (520-670-6144, 
phone; 520-670-6155 fax).
    The application, draft MSCP, draft IA, and draft EIS will also be 
available for public inspection, by appointment, during normal business 
hours (8 a.m. to 4:30 p.m.) at the Arizona Ecological Services Office, 
2321 West Royal Palm Road, Suite 103, Phoenix, AZ 85021.

Submitting Comments

    During the public comment period (see DATES), submit your written 
comments or data to the Field Supervisor at the Phoenix address above. 
Comments will also be accepted by fax at the number above, as well as 
by email to [email protected] with the subject line ``Pima County Draft 
MSCP and Draft EIS.''
    Comments submitted are available for public review at the Tucson 
address listed under FOR FURTHER INFORMATION CONTACT. This generally 
means that any personal information you provide to us will be available 
to anyone reviewing the public comments (see the Public Availability of 
Comments section below for more information).
    Copies of the draft MSCP, draft IA, and draft EIS are also 
available for public inspection and review at the locations listed 
     Pima County Public Library, Miller-Golf Links Branch 
Library 9640 E. Golf Links Road, Tucson, AZ 85730
     Pima County Public Library, Joel D. Valdez Main Library 
101 North Stone Avenue, Tucson, AZ 85701
     Pima County Public Library, Caviglia-Arivaca Branch 
Library 17050 W. Arivaca Rd., Arivaca, AZ 85601
     Pima County Public Library, Sahuarita Branch Library 725 
W. Via Rancho Sahuarita, Sahuarita, AZ 85629
     Pima County Public Library, Salazar-Ajo Branch Library 33 
Plaza, Ajo, AZ 85321
     Pima County Public Library, Geasa-Marana Branch Library 
13370 N. Lon Adams Rd., Marana, AZ 85653
     Pima County Office of Sustainability and Conservation (by 
appointment only) 201 N. Stone, 6th floor, Tucson, AZ 85701

Public Availability of Comments

    Written comments we receive become part of the public record 
associated with this action. Before including your address, phone 
number, email address, or other personal identifying information in 
your comment, you should be aware that the entire comment--including 
your personal identifying information--may be made publicly available 
at any time. While you can ask us in your comment to withhold your 
personal identifying information from public review, we cannot 
guarantee that we will be able to do so.


    We provide this notice under section 10(c) of the Act (16 U.S.C. 
1531 et seq.) and its implementing regulations (50 CFR 17.22 and 
17.32), and NEPA (42 U.S.C. 4371 et seq.) and its implementing 
regulations (40 CFR 1506.6).

Joy E. Nicholopoulos,
Acting Regional Director, Southwest Region, Albuquerque, New Mexico.
[FR Doc. 2012-29391 Filed 12-6-12; 8:45 am]