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Endangered Species Permits
NiSource Habitat Conservation Plan
“The habitat conservation plan developed by NiSource represents the new model for endangered species conservation and corporate wildlife stewardship,” said Tom Melius, the Service’s Midwest Regional Director. “This plan is an efficient and effective mechanism to address the conservation needs of listed species on a landscape scale, and it gives NiSource the ability to plan its activities in the long term.”
News Release (Nov. 14, 2013): U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service Approves Incidental Take Permit for NiSourceMulti-state Habitat Conservation Plan
The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (Service) has issued an Incidental Take Permit under the Endangered Species Act to NiSource Inc., a natural gas storage and distribution company. The permit was issued in conjunction with the company’s comprehensive Habitat Conservation Plan (HCP) to conserve dozens of endangered species while operating and maintaining its network of pipelines in 14 northeastern, midwestern and southeastern states. The permit allows "take" of 10 threatened and endangered species that may result from the company's routine construction, operation and maintenance activities within a one mile-wide corridor of their 15,562-mile pipeline network. NiSource’s HCP identifies how impacts to listed species from NiSource’s activities will be avoided and minimized and how any resulting “take” will be mitigated. The Incidental Take Permit does not authorize the pipeline work itself, only the take of listed species.
The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service worked closely with other federal agencies and NiSource to develop the HCP and associated documents. The role of the Service was to provide technical guidance as NiSource prepared the HCP and to evaluate the HCP to decide whether to issue an Incidental Take Permit. In addition, it was our responsibility to evaluate the federal action of issuing the Incidental Take Permit under section 7 of the Endangered Species Act and the National Environmental Policy Act.
Because certain NiSource activities to be covered by the Incidental Take Permit would also require authorization from the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission, U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, U.S. Forest Service, and/or the National Park Service, these agencies were brought in to the HCP development. The HCP participants determined it would be more practical, and would give a more complete picture of the extent of effects, to: 1) address the effects of all federal and non‐federal actions in one analysis and 2) develop a conservation package that would sufficiently address all effects while providing additional conservation that would contribute to the recovery of listed species. This resulted in the NiSource Habitat Conservation Plan, Incidental Take Permit, consultation document, and Environmental Impact Statement. The Service was the lead federal agency for the Environmental Impact Statement and the section 7 consultation, and the others served as cooperating agencies.
Draft versions of the HCP and Environmental Impact Statement were available for public review and comment for 150 days in 2011. Both documents were finalized in June 2013. In September 2013, we issued a consultation document, which included the biological opinion and incidental take statement, that addressed potential impacts to 89 listed, proposed, and candidate species that may occur within the Covered Lands. For the 47 species not analyzed in the HCP, the Service will address potential take programmatically, through future tiered section 7 consultations. Under the programmatic section 7 approach, the cooperating agencies will continue to review all future projects to determine if they may affect listed species or designated critical habitat. The Incidental Take Permit, Implementing Agreement and Record of Decision were issued on September 13, 2013.
The NiSource HCP is being implemented effective January 1, 2014. The Service and NiSource developed consultation implementation guidance to help federal agencies fulfill their section 7 consultation requirements. NiSource also developed a Best Management Practices Guidebook that details all of the avoidance and minimization measures and BMPs required for each listed, proposed, or candidate species that may be affected by the HCP. The Service also provided a training webinar to assist with implementing the HCP.
After all practicable steps have been taken to avoid and minimize take, Section 10 of the Endangered Species Act requires that all remaining take be mitigated. Mitigation measures include preserving existing habitat, enhancement or restoration of degraded habitat, establishment of new habitat, reestablishment or augmentation of populations, changes in current land use practices, and in some very specific instances, funds dedicated to research needs.
NiSource’s HCP includes a landscape-level approach to mitigation. Developed for NiSource by The Conservation Fund, the landscape-level approach provides a method for identifying and evaluating mitigation opportunities within a planned network of natural areas, developed lands and other open spaces that are managed to conserve ecosystem values and functions and also to benefit human populations. The result of The Conservation Fund’s assessment is a framework to identify mitigation opportunities that provide the greatest benefit for the species.
NiSource Approach to Mitigation: Strategic Conservation Planning Using Green Infrastructure
Last updated: April 1, 2014