Office of External Affairs
Mountain-Prairie Region

NEWS RELEASE

U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service
Mountain-Prairie Region
134 Union Boulevard
Lakewood, Colorado 80228

July 24, 2012

Contacts:

Terry Ireland, (970) 243-2778 x16
Leith Edgar, (303) 236-4588; Leith_Edgar@fws.gov

 

Draft San Luis Valley Regional Habitat Conservation Plan and Environmental Assessment to be Released July 2012

Sunset over the Sangre de Cristo Mountains
Credit: USFWS

GRAND JUNCTION, Colo. – The Rio Grande Water Conservation District (District) and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (Service) are notifying the public that the Draft San Luis Valley Regional Habitat Conservation Plan and Environmental Assessment (Draft HCP/EA) will be released in July 2012 for a 60-day public review period. 

The availability of documents, public review period, and contact information will be announced in the Federal Register on July 25, 2012.  The Service sent letters and the District sent emails to several individuals, agencies, and organizations announcing availability of the documents.  Additionally, the District intends to give a presentation on the draft HCP in August 2012.  For additional details about the presentation view the District website listed below.

The District; Alamosa, Conejos, Costilla, Mineral, Rio Grande, and Saguache Counties; the municipalities of Alamosa, Monte Vista, Del Norte, and South Fork; and the State of Colorado Department of Natural Resources have developed a voluntary draft HCP with technical assistance from the Service.  The Service and the District provided the public and other interested parties the opportunity for input on the project in 2005 with a 60-day scoping period.  The District and Service received comments that helped to identify issues important to the development of the Draft HCP/EA. 

The HCP is the plan under which the District intends to sustain routine agricultural, small-community infrastructure, and riparian conservation and restoration activities over time while conserving habitat for two wildlife species: the federally endangered southwestern willow flycatcher (flycatcher) and the Western U.S. distinct population segment of the yellow-billed cuckoo (cuckoo), a candidate for Federal listing.  The HCP demonstrates how the District and other applicants would minimize and mitigate impacts to the covered species.

According to Tom Schultz, Trust Land Management Division Administrator of the District, “This HCP is the culmination of years of hard work and cooperative efforts with our partners and the Service to develop a plan that provides tangible conservation for flycatchers and cuckoos. It will allow landowners and local governments to continue routine agriculture and infrastructure activities vital to the economic well-being of the entire Valley. These efforts by the District, the six counties of the San Luis Valley, Colorado Parks and Wildlife, local municipalities, and many others have already contributed to more than 1,700 acres of private conservation of riparian habitat in support of this HCP. Implementation of this HCP will continue that heritage of conservation and cooperation that benefits both wildlife and the citizens of the Valley.”

“This regional HCP provides a comprehensive and strategic approach to conserve the flycatcher and the cuckoo in the San Luis Valley by providing habitat to offset unavoidable impacts from routine land uses.  It also eliminates burdensome regulatory processes and the need for landowners and local governments to develop their own HCPs. This HCP is an excellent example of how the Service stands behind approaches to conserve species while preserving working landscapes.” said Mountain-Prairie Regional Director Steve Guertin.

The HCP was prepared to meet regulatory compliance with Section 10 of the ESA and is part of an application for an Incidental Take Permit (Permit) that is submitted to the Service for review and approval.  Under Section 10, the U.S. Secretary of the Interior and U.S. Secretary of Commerce may, where appropriate, authorize the taking of federally listed wildlife or fish through a Permit, if such taking occurs incidentally during otherwise lawful activities. 

The District and other applicants are requesting that the Permits be issued by the Service for a period of 30 years.  If the HCP is approved and the Permits are granted, the District will administer the HCP and all the applicants will share implementation of the HCP.

Issuance of the Permits by the Service is considered a federal action that may affect the quality of the human environment, thus requiring preparation of an EA under the National Environmental Policy Act.  The EA considers a no-action alternative and two action alternatives.  Of these, the District and other applicants have identified the HCP alternative as the proposed alternative.

The Draft HCP/EA will be available on-line at http://www.slvhcp.com or http://www.fws.gov/coloradoES/SLV-HCP.html.  Anyone needing a printed or electronic copy of the Draft HCP/EA or the Notice of Availability published in the Federal Register should contact the Service at 970-243-2778 x 16 or request a printed or electronic copy by e-mailing sanluisvalleyhcp@fws.gov.

The mission of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service is working with others to conserve, protect, and enhance fish, wildlife, plants, and their habitats for the continuing benefit of the American people. We are both a leader and trusted partner in fish and wildlife conservation, known for our scientific excellence, stewardship of lands and natural resources, dedicated professionals, and commitment to public service. For more information on our work and the people who make it happen, visit http://www.fws.gov/mountain-prairie/. Connect with our Facebook page at http://www.facebook.com/USFWSMountainPrairie, follow our tweets at http://twitter.com/USFWSMtnPrairie, watch our YouTube Channel at http://www.youtube.com/usfws and download photos from our Flickr page at http://www.flickr.com/photos/usfwsmtnprairie/

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