To “take” an endangered or threatened animal or fish is defined by the Endangered Species Act of 1973 as “to harass, harm, pursue, hunt, shoot, wound, kill, trap, capture or collect listed animal species, or attempt to engage in such conduct,” according to a notice published in the Federal Register on July 31.
If issued by the USFWS, the Incidental Take Permit would allow the LCRA Transmission Services Corporation to potentially take around 35 endangered or threatened species in 241 counties of Texas for a span of 30 years, said Tanya Sommer from the USFWS Austin Ecological Services.
This includes all Texas counties except for Bailey, Cass, Cochran, Dallam, El Paso, Hardin, Hockley, Marion, Newton, Orange, Sabine, Sherman and Yoakum, according to a USFWS map.
The take could occur during the construction and maintenance of electrical transmission lines, access roads and related facilities and infrastructure, according to meeting documents.
“The construction of power lines often involves clearing vegetation, [and] that vegetation could be habitat for listed species,” she said.
The notice in the Federal Register said some of the species included in the permit could be the golden-cheeked warbler, ocelot and Houston toad, among others.
Sommer and USFWS spokesperson Lesli Gray said there are multiple steps before the permit can be issued. These steps include:
- Hold public scoping meetings. At these meetings, members of the public can say what natural resources and species they think should be specifically considered in the USFWS’s study. They can also offer ideas for alternatives to issuing a permit.
- The LCRA Transmission Services Corporation issues a draft Habitat Conservation Plan and the USFWS releases an environmental study. The LCRA Transmission Services Corporation’s draft document explains what actions it plans to take under the permit and how environmental resources could be affected by those actions. The environmental study released by the USFWS analyzes how issuing a permit could potentially affect cultural, social, economic and natural resources.
- Receive public comment on the plans. Citizens have the opportunity to comment on the draft Habitat Conservation Plan and environmental study.
- Publish final documents. The LCRA Transmission Services Corporation releases a final Habitat Conservation Plan. The USFWS’s final document includes the service’s decision on whether or not to issue an Incidental Take Permit.
The draft documents may be available for public comment in mid-2018, and the final documents could be published in late 2018 to early 2019, Sommer said.
A public scoping meeting was held in Corpus Christi Monday evening, and another took place in Austin Tuesday night. The last two meetings are scheduled for Aug. 17 at the MLK Community Center, 2300 Butternut Lane, Midland and Aug. 21 at Staybridge Suites, 1405 Staybridge Suites, 1405 University Drive E., College Station. Both run from 6-8 p.m.
The public can also submit comments to the USFWS through the following methods, according to a press release from the service:
- Mail: Field Supervisor, Austin Ecological Services Field Office, 10711 Burnet Road, Ste. 200, Austin
- Email: FW2_AUES_Consult@fws.gov
- Fax: 512-490-0974
Readers can visit the USFWS website for more information.