Georgia Parham 812-334-4261 x 203
The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service will prepare an Environmental Impact Statement to evaluate a proposed multi-species, multi-state Habitat Conservation Plan and application for an incidental take permit under the Endangered Species Act. The HCP is being developed by NiSource Inc., a natural gas distribution company, as it seeks an incidental take permit for operating and maintaining its network of pipelines in 17 northeastern, Midwest and southeastern states.
The Endangered Species Act requires an approved Habitat Conservation Plan before an incidental take permit is granted. HCPs are agreements between a landowner and the Service, allowing landowners to undertake otherwise lawful activities on their property that may result in the incidental death, injury or harassment of a listed species; the landowner agrees to conservation measures designed to minimize and mitigate the impact of those actions. Nationwide, there are more than 675 HCPs currently in effect covering nearly 600 species on approximately 42 million acres nationwide.
In its EIS, the Service will evaluate the possible environmental impacts of implementing NiSource’s Habitat Conservation Plan and the potential effects of granting an incidental take permit under the Endangered Species Act.
NiSource will develop an HCP that covers the company’s activities that may result in take of endangered or threatened species along its pipeline network. The plan will address conservation needs for approximately 75 species, including a number of federally endangered and threatened species. NiSource’s HCP will include measures to avoid or reduce impacts on those species resulting from business activities. The plan will also include mitigation practices such as protecting existing habitat, creating new habitat for protected species, and identifying research to better understand endangered species.
The Service encourages interested groups and individuals to provide comment during the EIS process. A public comment period is open through November 30, 2007. Send your comments by:
U.S. Mail: Regional Director, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, Division of Ecological Services, 1 Federal Drive, Fort Snelling, MN 551114056.
A series of public information meetings are planned for November in the following cities: Lafayette, LA; Jackson, MS; Nashville TN; Lexington, KY; Philadelphia, PA; Pittsburgh, PA; Columbus, OH; Cleveland, OH; Charleston, WV; Richmond, VA; Washington, D.C.; Binghamton, NY; and Portsmouth, NH.
More information about the EIS and HCP, along with locations, dates, and times of specific public meetings can be found at: http://www.fws.gov/midwest/Endangered/permits/hcp/hcp_nisource.html
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 544 national wildlife refuges, thousands of small wetlands and other special management areas. It also operates 69 national fish hatcheries, 64 fishery resources 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 and Native American tribal governments with their conservation efforts. It also oversees the Federal Assistance program, which distributes hundreds of millions of dollars in excise taxes on fishing and hunting equipment to state fish and wildlife agencies.