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Michigan DNR - Karner Blue Butterfly

 

Draft Environmental Assessment of the Michigan Karner Blue Butterfly Habitat Conservation Plan and Incidental Take Permit

 

Below is the Purpose and Need section of the Environmental Assessment. Click here for the complete 121-page (PDF) Draft Environmental Assessment of the Michigan Karner Blue Butterfly HCP and Incidental Take Permit.

 

Prepared by:

Michigan Department of Natural Resources
Wildlife Division
Stevens T. Mason Building
P.O. Box 30180
Lansing, MI 48909

for:

U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service
East Lansing Field Office
2651 Coolidge Road, Suite 101
East Lansing, Michigan 48823

 

November 2, 2007

 

1. PURPOSE AND NEED

1.1 Purpose
The Michigan Department of Natural Resources (DNR) has developed the Michigan Karner Blue Butterfly Habitat Conservation Plan (hereafter, Comprehensive HCP; Michigan DNR 2007) to facilitate the conservation of the Oak Savanna Ecosystem, Karner blue butterfly (Lycaeides melissa samuelis; KBB) and other associated species of concern on non-Federal land in Michigan. It outlines activities that will be conducted to maintain the early-successional habitat conditions necessary to support savanna species and communities. It also integrates diverse land uses with conservation objectives by outlining measures to avoid, minimize and mitigate take of KBB and other species that could be caused by activities in occupied KBB habitat. In this way, the Comprehensive HCP supports the issuance of an incidental take permit (ITP) pursuant to section 10(a)(1)(B) of the Federal Endangered Species Act of 1973, as amended (87 Stat 884, 16 U.S.C. § 1531 et seq.; ESA).

 

This Environmental Assessment (EA) evaluates issuance of an ITP under the proposed action (Comprehensive HCP) and under other alternatives for potential impacts to KBB and the human environment.

 

1.2 Need

KBB is listed as an endangered species under authority of the ESA. Take of endangered species is restricted by section 9 of the ESA. Under the ESA, ‘take’ means to harass, harm, pursue, hunt, shoot, wound, kill, trap, capture or collect a federally listed threatened or endangered species or to attempt to engage in any such conduct. KBB require early-successional habitats (U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service 2003a), and management needed to maintain these habitats may result in take of individuals. The take restriction therefore limits the options available to manage habitat and it precludes other types of land uses in areas occupied by KBB.

 

Under certain circumstances, however, section 10 of the ESA allows exceptions from the restriction on take. An ITP under section 10(a)(1)(B) allows incidental take associated with otherwise lawful activity. An HCP, intended to minimize and mitigate take authorized by an ITP, must be submitted with the permit application. By law, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS) can not issue a permit that would jeopardize the continued existence of a listed species. In consultation with the USFWS, the Michigan DNR identified an ITP as the most appropriate regulatory instrument to facilitate conservation of occupied KBB habitat in Michigan. Accordingly, the Comprehensive HCP identifies measures to avoid, minimize and mitigate the adverse effects of incidental take of KBB and thus supports the issuance of an ITP.

 

In the absence of a Comprehensive HCP and associated ITP, land managers and landowners would need to obtain incidental-take authorization on an individual, project-specific basis to legally conduct the activities listed above. This situation would result in a patchwork of projects conducted with little or no coordinated planning or consideration of range-wide impacts to KBB and other species of concern. By contrast, projects implemented under the Comprehensive HCP would be authorized by a single ITP. Projects would be implemented according to consistent conditions, and HCP management partners would coordinate management activities and benefit from predictable regulatory approaches. The Comprehensive HCP would therefore facilitate efforts to evaluate and minimize the cumulative adverse impacts of individual projects to particular KBB populations.

 

Activities that would be conducted under the Comprehensive HCP would not be expected to either increase or decrease the amount of occupied KBB habitat in Michigan; rather, they would be conducted to help prevent the loss of occupied KBB habitat on non-Federal land.

 

Maintenance of existing populations is a critical component of the KBB conservation program in> Michigan. It is also consistent with objectives of the Federal Recovery Plan, which outlines a strategy for “maintaining extant populations” and “improving and stabilizing populations where the butterfly is imperiled” (USFWS 2003a:52). In this way, the Comprehensive HCP is a necessary complement to other, recovery-directed activities that are designed to increase the> distribution of the species in the State.

 

1.3 Decisions that Need To Be Made

The USFWS will evaluate the proposed action (Comprehensive HCP) and other alternatives considered in detail and will determine whether this Environmental Assessment is adequate to support a Finding of No Significant Impact, or whether an Environmental Impact Statement will need to be prepared.

 

1.4 Background
Historically, habitats within the Oak Savanna Ecosystem were maintained in an earlysuccessional state by a natural disturbance regime that included frequent fire, windthrow, wild herbivore grazing, and insect and disease outbreak (Nuzzo 1986, Grundel et al. 1998, Ritchie et al. 1998, Fuhlendorf and Engle 2001). The practice of widespread fire suppression that began following European settlement interrupted the primary mechanism that historically maintained this ecosystem (Haney and Apfelbaum 1990, Faber-Langendoen 1991, Abrams 1992, O’Connor 2006). The Oak Savanna Ecosystem has been reduced to fragmented and often-degraded remnants as a result of land conversion and fire suppression (Nuzzo 1986, O’Connor 2006).

 

Many savanna-dependent species, including KBB (Andow et al. 1994), declined or were locally extirpated as habitat was degraded or destroyed (Leach and Ross 1995). The range-wide decline prompted the 1992 classification of KBB as federally endangered (U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service 1992).

 

Throughout the period of widespread population decline, however, KBB populations in Michigan and Wisconsin remained comparatively robust (U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service 2003a). Many of these KBB populations survived on a public land base, where land-management practices designed to benefit wildlife like white-tailed deer (Odocoileus virginianus), wild turkey (Meleagris gallopavo) and ruffed grouse (Bonasa umbellus) also benefited KBB.

 

Within Michigan, KBB is currently known to occur on approximately 3,900 acres within 10 counties in the western Lower Peninsula (Fettinger 2005; Figure 1). The Federal Karner Blue Butterfly Recovery Plan (U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service 2003a) divides existing KBB range within the State into four Recovery Units. Additional areas with potential to contribute to the long-term recovery of the species have also been identified (Figure 2).

 

Occupied KBB habitat in Michigan is almost equally divided between public (51%) and private (49%) land (Table 1). On public land, Federal land encompasses 57% of all known occupied habitat. The remaining 43% of occupied KBB habitat on public land occurs within a mix of State, county and local ownerships. Non-public land encompassing occupied KBB habitat includes ownerships by non-governmental organizations, utility companies, railroad companies, and other private entities. The majority of non-public land with occupied KBB habitat consists of many small, privately owned parcels.

 

Currently, major threats to the Oak Savanna Ecosystem, KBB and other associated species of concern in Michigan are: 1) habitat succession due to suppression of the natural disturbance regime; 2) management and maintenance practices that are incompatible with the conservation of those natural features; and 3) habitat conversion and fragmentation due to development and other land uses. The Michigan DNR developed the Comprehensive HCP to help minimize and mitigate these threats on both private and non-Federal public land throughout the distribution of KBB in Michigan.

 

Above is the Purpose and Need section of the Environmental Assessment. Click here for the complete 121-page (PDF) Draft Environmental Assessment of the Michigan Karner Blue Butterfly HCP and Incidental Take Permit.

 

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Last updated: June 10, 2014