July 15, 2010
David Lentz (WI DNR) (608) 261-6451
Georgia Parham (USFWS) 812-334-4261 x 1203
Wisconsin Statewide Karner Blue Butterfly Habitat Conservation Plan is Renewed
The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service has approved Wisconsin’s updated conservation plan and request to renew the state’s incidental take permit for the endangered Karner blue butterfly.
The Wisconsin Statewide Karner Blue Butterfly Habitat Conservation Plan was first approved in 1999. Under the administration of the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources, partners to the statewide habitat conservation plan have grown from 26 in 1999 to 41 today. Current partners include county forest departments, utility companies, forest industry, county and township highway departments and the departments of Transportation and Agriculture.
Habitat conservation plans are agreements between a landowner and the Service that allow a landowner to carry out otherwise lawful activities on their property, even if they may result in “take” - the death, injury or harassment of a federally-listed species - when the landowner agrees to conservation measures designed to minimize and mitigate the impact of those actions. Habitat conservation plans may also be developed by a state or county to cover certain activities of all landowners within their jurisdiction.
Wisconsin DNR updated their conservation plan to reflect changes made over the last decade, including an adjustment in the range of the Karner blue butterfly in Wisconsin and a focus on recovery of the butterfly. The Service’s approval renews the permit for another 10 years.
Matt Frank, Secretary of the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources, credited the partners’ dedication to the conservation plan that has sustained the Karner Blue to more than tenfold the number when discovered about 20 years ago. However, Frank says, the Karner Blue success story is more about Wisconsin’s working landscape and why the majority of this endangered species live in the state.
“We care about the Karner because it is a keystone species – and has become a symbol of the state’s natural but also imperiled savanna/barrens ecosystem. By honoring this conservation plan to provide the habitat for the Karner, it is the larger natural community relying upon the barrens that also benefits,” Frank said. “We know Wisconsin has more Karner blues than anywhere. We all share the responsibility to honor the grassroots conservation plan to assure continued survival of the Karner and all other species relying upon this ecosystem.”
“Wisconsin’s statewide habitat conservation plan is considered a model for similar conservation efforts across the country,” said the Service’s Midwest Regional Director Tom Melius. “The state of Wisconsin and the many partners who participate under this conservation plan were truly pioneers in habitat conservation planning and continue to find innovative ways to secure the future of the Karner blue butterfly.”
Partners who sign on to the conservation plan are able to use the state’s incidental take permit when carrying out work that could affect endangered Karner blue butterflies. Those impacts are offset by implementing measures spelled out in the habitat conservation plan to ensure long-term conservation of the species in Wisconsin. An additional benefit of the plan has been the opportunity for Wisconsin DNR to compete for the Service’s Habitat Conservation Plan Land Acquisition funds. Since 2001, the Wisconsin DNR has been awarded four grants for over $3.6 million to purchase nearly 2,000 acres of habitat to support conservation of the species.
The Karner blue butterfly is found in portions of Illinois, Indiana, Michigan, Minnesota, New Hampshire, New York, Ohio, and Wisconsin. Karner blue caterpillars feed only on the leaves of the wild lupine plant, while adults feed on the nectar of flowering plants. This severely restricts where they can survive. The species was listed as endangered in 1992 due to population declines linked to loss of habitat.
For more information on the Karner blue butterfly statewide habitat conservation plan, visit http://dnr.wi.gov/forestry/karner/. More information on the Karner blue butterfly and other endangered species in the Midwest is available at www.fws.gov/midwest/endangered
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