|The Mountain-Prairie Region|
U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service
134 Union Boulevard
Lakewood, Colorado 80228
March 21, 2002
Contacts: Nell McPhillips 605-224-8693 ext 32
Diane Katzenberger 303-236-7917 ext 408
Public Comment Period Reopened on Proposal to Designate Critical Habitat
Northern Great Plains Population of Piping Plover and Economic Analysis of Impacts
In response to comments and requests received during the initial comment period, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service today published a notice in the Federal Register to reopen the public comment period to allow interested parties additional time to review the proposal to designate critical habitat for the northern Great Plains population of piping plover and the draft report analyzing the potential economic impacts. Comments and information about the proposed designation of critical habitat and the draft economic analysis will be accepted until May 20, 2002.
The Endangered Species Act (ESA) requires the Service to consider potential economic impacts of a critical habitat designation when determining whether or not to designate critical habitat. If the benefits of excluding an area outweigh the benefits of including it, the Service may exclude an area from critical habitat, unless the exclusion would result in the extinction of the species.
The purpose of the economic analysis is to identify possible incremental economic impacts and benefits from the proposed critical habitat designation above and beyond the impacts already resulting from the listing of the piping plover. Critical habitat designations only affect Federal actions under Section 7 of the ESA. This analysis estimates the possible costs of the proposed critical habitat on Federal actions involving private landowners, Federal, state, and local agencies, and Tribes over the next 10 years. The cost estimates include possible consultations regarding the piping plover, project modifications, and development of biological assessments and environmental impact reports, and technical assistance and administrative tasks.
This draft analysis finds that over the next 10 years, total annual ESA Section 7 consultation costs associated with activities potentially affecting piping plover due to designation of critical habitat would be a maximum of approximately $58,000 per year. This cost estimate is based on the number of anticipated informal and formal consultations generated because of the critical habitat designation. It also acknowledges that there might be some project delays because of the consultation requirement. Overall, the report finds that all associated impacts would be minimal. While Federal agencies are required to consult with the Service before taking actions, issuing permits, or providing funding for activities that might adversely modify critical habitat, it has no impact on landowners taking actions on their land that do not involve Federal funding or permits.
The draft report was developed by Bioeconomics, Inc., a Montana-based economic consulting firm, under a sub-contract to Industrial Economics, Incorporated.
In June 2001, the Service proposed designation of critical habitat for the northern Great Plains population of the piping plover (Charadrius melodus) on approximately 196,576 acres and 1,338 river miles in Minnesota, Montana, North Dakota, South Dakota, and Nebraska.
Critical habitat refers to specific geographic areas that are essential for the conservation of a threatened or endangered species and which may require special management considerations. These areas do not necessarily have to be occupied by the species at the time of designation. A designation does not set up a preserve or refuge and only applies to situations where Federal funding or a Federal permit is involved.
Written comments should be sent to Piping Plover Comments, South Dakota Ecological Services Field Office, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, 420 South Garfield Avenue, Suite 400, Pierre, South Dakota 57501, or by fax to 605-224-9974 or by electronic mail to firstname.lastname@example.org
Copies of the economic analysis as well as the critical habitat proposal can be accessed via the Internet at http://mountain-prairie.fws.gov/pipingplover or by writing to the above address.
The piping plover is named for its melodic mating call. It is a small, pale-colored North American shorebird. The birds light sand-colored plumage blends in with sandy beaches and shorelines. There are three breeding populations of piping plovers in the United States. The Great Lakes population is listed as endangered and the northern Great Plains and Atlantic Coast populations are listed as threatened. All piping plovers winter along the southeast and Gulf coasts and are listed as threatened in their wintering habitat. Critical habitat for both the Great Lakes and wintering populations was designated earlier this year.
The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service is the principal Federal agency responsible for conserving, protecting and enhancing fish, wildlife and plants and their habitats for the continuing benefit of the American people. The Service manages the 95-million-acre National Wildlife Refuge System which encompasses nearly 540 national wildlife refuges, thousands of small wetlands and other special management areas. It also operates 70 national fish hatcheries, 64 fishery resource offices and 78 ecological services field stations. The agency enforces Federal wildlife laws, administers the Endangered Species Act, manages migratory bird populations, restores nationally significant fisheries, conserves and restores wildlife habitat such as wetlands, and helps foreign governments with their conservation efforts. It also oversees the Federal Aid program that distributes hundreds of millions of dollars in excise taxes on fishing and hunting equipment to state fish and wildlife agencies.
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