Office of External Affairs
Mountain-Prairie Region

NEWS RELEASE

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

For Immediate Release

November 21, 2012

Contacts:

Terry Ireland, (970) 243-2778 x16
Leith Edgar 303.236.4588; Leith_Edgar@fws.gov


A Win for Both People and Birds in the San Luis Valley

 

The San Luis Valley as Seen from Monte Vista National Wildlife Refuge
Monte Vista NWR in Colorado's San Luis Valley. Credit: USFWS

GRAND JUNCTION, Colo. – The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (Service) and the Rio Grande Water Conservation District (District) are pleased to announce that the Final San Luis Valley Regional Habitat Conservation Plan and Environmental Assessment (Final HCP/EA) are completed and available for viewing. The plan allows for routine activities to continue while also conserving two bird species native to the San Luis Valley.

The Final HCP is the result of a collaborative effort between the District; the counties of Alamosa, Conejos, Costilla, Mineral, Rio Grande, and Saguache; the municipalities of Alamosa, Monte Vista, Del Norte, and South Fork; the Colorado Department of Natural Resources (Permittees); and the Service to develop a regional strategy for conserving riparian habitat and sustaining working lands in the San Luis Valley, Colorado.  

The HCP provides regulatory certainty for the Permittees and ranchers of the San Luis Valley for routine agricultural, small infrastructure, and riparian conservation and restoration activities (covered activities), while conserving habitat for two riparian species: the federally endangered southwestern willow flycatcher (Empidonax traillii extimus) (flycatcher) and the Western U.S. distinct population segment of the yellow-billed cuckoo (Coccyzus americanus) (cuckoo), a candidate for federal listing.  The Permittees and landowners will receive authorization for any harm to these species that may occur as a result of the covered activities.  The District will ensure that the anticipated impacts of this take will be offset through habitat protection, enhancement, and restoration.

According to Tom Schultz, Trust Land Management Division Administrator of the District, the HCP is a win-win for the counties entering into it as well as the endangered flycatchers and candidate cuckoos that call the San Luis Valley home.

“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,” said Schultz.

Similarly, Noreen Walsh, acting Regional Director for the Mountain-Prairie Region of the Service, said the development of the HCP is an example of how cooperative conservation and working lands are complementary.

“We’re happy to see our conservation partners in the San Luis Valley develop this plan that will allow people to sustain their rich tradition of working the fertile landscape of the Valley, while simultaneously contributing to the conservation of fish and wildlife in their own backyards,” said Walsh.

The HCP was prepared to meet regulatory compliance with Section 10 of the Endangered Species Act as part of the applications for Incidental Take Permits (Permits) that were 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. 

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 considered a no-action alternative and two action alternatives, one of which was the proposed HCP.  The Service issued a Finding of No Significant Impact on November 15, 2012 for the HCP.
 
The Final HCP/EA and other related documents 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 Final HCP/EA should contact the Service at 970-243-2778.

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/

 - FWS -