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The Mountain-Prairie Region

NEWS RELEASE

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

 

February 21, 2003

Contacts: Al Pfister (CO) 970-243-2778
Bob Leachman (CO) 970-243-2778 (avail. on 2/24)
Lou Hanebury (MT) 406-247-7367
Jodi Bush (WY) 307-772-2374 ext 31
Steve Anschutz (NE) 308-382-6468, ext 12 (avail. on 2/25)
Dan Mulhern (KS) 785-539-3474 ext 109
Bill Gill (KS) 785-539-3474 ext 105
Elizabeth Slown (NM) 505-248-6909
Jeff Humphrey (AZ) 602-242-0210
Pat Foulk (CA) 916-414-6566
Sharon Rose 303-236-7917, ext 415

U.S. FISH AND WILDLIFE SERVICE EXTENDS PUBLIC COMMENT
PERIOD ON ITS PROPOSAL TO LIST THE MOUNTAIN PLOVER,
A GRASSLAND BIRD, AS A THREATENED SPECIES

In today’s Federal Register the public comment period time has been extended to Friday, March 21, 2003 for the public to comment on the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service’s proposal to list the mountain plover as a threatened species. Comments that have already been submitted on the proposed listing do not need to be sent again.

In December 2002 the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service reopened the public comment period to include new information on its 1999 proposal to list the mountain plover. In addition to reopening the comment period, the Service has also proposed a special rule under section 4(d) of the Act that is designed to improve understanding of the impact of some agricultural practices on mountain plover populations. In the event that the plover is listed as a threatened species, the special rule will allow ongoing agricultural practices to continue until December 31, 2004, in portions of Colorado, Wyoming, Nebraska, Kansas, and Oklahoma. This two-year period will allow researchers to complete field research and analyze data for an ongoing study that will ultimately help State and Federal agencies manage plover populations and reverse population declines.

More information is needed about the relationship of plovers and cultivated land. Mechanical practices such as tilling to plant crops, prepare soil or control weeds at certain times during the nesting season are believed to affect the nesting success of the mountain plover. However, there is no scientific information comparing mountain plover nest success on non-cultivated, traditionally used grasslands with nest success on cultivated lands. The proposed special rule provides for more research to be performed on cultivated lands without affecting ongoing agricultural activities, thus allowing the Service to gain this knowledge.

"By extending the comment period, we are asking the public to provide us with any additional information and comments they may have on the mountain plover, said Ralph Morgenweck, Director of the Service’s 8-state Mountain-Prairie Region. "The Service uses all the information it collects from a variety of sources, including state and federal agencies, non-governmental groups and individuals, to make a determination on the listing of a species, and the more biologically sound data we have, the more accurate a call we can make," Morgenweck added.

Comments on the Service’s proposal and on the proposed special rule, should be sent to the Western Colorado Field Office (Mountain Plover), U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, 764 Horizon Drive, Building B, Grand Junction, Colorado 81506-3946, and postmarked by March 21, 2003.

Because of declines in populations of the mountain plover, the Service proposed listing it as a threatened species in 1999, but a final decision to list was not made at that time. Reduced populations of prairie dogs and other burrowing mammals, loss of plover nests to cultivation, adoption of uniform domestic livestock grazing strategies, and conversion of grasslands and other habitats on breeding and wintering grounds are factors the Service believes have contributed to the decline of the mountain plover.

The current total population of mountain plovers is estimated to be between 8,000 and 10,000 individuals. Historically, breeding mountain plovers were widely distributed in the Great Plains region from Canada south to Texas. At this time mountain plovers occur in Colorado, Montana, Wyoming, Utah, Oklahoma, New Mexico, Kansas, Nebraska, Texas, and California. Most breeding occurs in Colorado, Montana, and Wyoming, and at least 85 percent of the population winters in the Imperial and Central Valleys of California. Research and monitoring conducted since the 1960s indicate that the mountain plover is declining on both its breeding and wintering grounds.

Historically, the mountain plover was found on grasslands that were used by large numbers of bison, elk, and pronghorn, as well as burrowing animals such as prairie dogs, kangaroo rats, and badgers. Their grazing, wallowing, and burrowing activities created and maintained the type of habitat that mountain plovers prefer. Currently, mountain plovers show a preference for prairie dog towns and sites that are heavily grazed by domestic livestock. They also can be found on sod farms, alkali flats, cultivated fields, and other types of agricultural lands which mimic their preferred habitat. Wherever the site, a mixture of short vegetation and bare ground, and a flat topography are habitat-defining characteristics of mountain plovers at both breeding and wintering locations.

The mountain plover was originally named the Rocky Mountain plover because the first specimens were taken within sight of those mountains. It has been known by several different scientific names, as well as other common names. Its scientific name currently is Charadrius montanus. Information on the mountain plover can be found by searching http://mountain-prairie.fws.gov/mtnplover and www.usgs.gov.

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 540 national wildlife refuges, thousands of small wetlands and other special management areas. It also operates 69 national fish hatcheries, 64 fishery resource offices and 81 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

- FWS -

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visit our home page at http://www.fws.gov.

 


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