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The Mountain-Prairie Region

NEWS RELEASE

U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service
134 Union Boulevard
Lakewood, Colorado 80228

September 11, 2002

Contacts: Nell McPhillips (SD) 605-224-8693 ext 32
Lou Hanebury (MT) 406-247-7367
Lori Nordstrom (MT) 406-449-5225 ext 208
Karen Kreil (ND) 701-355-8506
Erika Wilson (NE) 308-382-6468 ext 25
Phil Delphey (MN) 612-725-3548 ext. 206
Diane Katzenberger 303-236-7917 ext 408

U. S. Fish and Wildlife Service Designates Critical Habitat for the Great Plains Population of Piping Plover

After reviewing and evaluating public comments, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service announced today that it has designated critical habitat for the Northern Great Plains population of piping plover, an imperiled migratory shorebird. This designation includes 183,422 acres of habitat and 1,207.5 river miles in Minnesota, Montana, North Dakota, South Dakota, and Nebraska.

Designated areas of critical habitat include prairie alkali wetlands and surrounding shoreline; river channels and associated sandbars and islands; and reservoirs and inland lakes and their sparsely vegetated shorelines, peninsulas, and islands. These areas provide primary courtship, nesting, foraging, sheltering, brood-rearing and dispersal habitat for piping plovers.

"The Service designated only those lands that we determined were essential to the plover’s conservation based on the best scientific information currently available," said Ralph Morgenweck, the Service’s Director for the Mountain-Prairie Region. "We will continue working cooperatively with landowners to conserve prairie habitat and prairie species including the piping plover."

Critical habitat identifies specific geographic areas that are essential for the conservation of a threatened or endangered species and which may require special management considerations. However, a designation does not affect land ownership or establish a refuge, wilderness, reserve, preserve, or other special conservation area and only applies to situations where Federal funding or a Federal permit is involved. It does not allow government or public access to private lands and does not close areas to all access or use.

With today’s announcement, the Service has excluded a total of 13,154.5 acres and 130.5 river miles originally proposed as critical habitat in June 2001:

The North Dakota National Guard property on Lake Coe was excluded because the Camp Grafton Integrated Natural Resources Management Plan provides benefits for piping plovers;

15 alkali lakes and wetlands in North Dakota and Montana were eliminated after additional review of all of the data found they did not meet the survey criteria for numbers of times birds were found at sites. Other changes included redescription of sites because of a name change or the site was included in the proposed rule as a complex unit but now is referred to as an individual site;

Nelson Reservoir was excluded because a Memorandum of Understanding between the Bureau of Reclamation, the Service and local Irrigation Districts and a biological opinion are in place allowing for the management and conservation of piping plovers;

Lake Francis Case was removed because additional information obtained during the comment period indicated piping plovers did not nest in this area. Also, operations of this lake make the availability of habitat during the nesting season very limited. Thus, this reservoir does not now nor will it likely in the future provide significant nesting habitat for piping plovers; and

The area designated along the Platte River was reduced by 23 miles and the Niobrara River was reduced by 9 miles after review of additional information received during the comment period.

The northern Great Plains population of piping plovers is already protected as a threatened species wherever it may occur. Designation of critical habitat for this population of piping plovers does not add additional protection, though it does contribute to their conservation by helping Federal agencies determine when and where they must consult with the Fish and Wildlife Service before undertaking actions that may destroy or adversely modify plover habitat.

The final addendum to the economic analysis of the designation, required under the ESA, determined that there are no significant economic impacts from the designation of critical habitat for the piping plover. The analysis looked at the incremental economic impacts from critical habitat above and beyond the impacts already resulting from the listing of the plover as well as a more comprehensive look at all future section 7 costs. Annual section 7 consultation costs were estimated for the next 10 years at $2,347,800 per year. Of this total a maximum of approximately $32,600 per year would be due to designation of critical habitat for the piping plover. It is this amount ($32,600) that would be avoided were there no critical habitat designation for the species.

A complete description of the Service's decision to designate critical habitat for the piping plover is published in today’s Federal Register. Copies of the rule and final addendum to the economic analysis can be downloaded from the Service's web site at http://mountain-prairie.fws.gov/pipingplover.

Requests for copies of the final rule and economic analysis should be submitted to Field Supervisor, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, South Dakota Field Office, 420 South Garfield Avenue, Suite 400, Pierre, SD 57501-5408.

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. For more information about the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, visit our home page at http://www.fws.gov

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