Only the primary constituent elements essential for the conservation of
wintering piping plovers are designated. The primary constituent elements
include intertidal beaches and flats and associated dune systems and flats
above annual high tide. Critical habitat does not include existing developed
sites consisting of buildings, marinas, paved areas, boat ramps, and similar
structures. For a full description see proposed rule.
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
June 30, 2000 Contact:
Tom MacKenzie (FWS) 404/909-2243
Georgia: Kyla Hastie 706/613-9493 x36
Alabama/Mississippi: Connie Dickard 334/441-5181x39
Louisiana: Deborah Fuller 337/291-3100
Florida: Chuck Underwood 904/232-2580 x109
North Carolina: Kevin Moody or John Ellis 919/856-4520
South Carolina: Jennifer Koches 843/727-4707
The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service is proposing to designate critical habitat for the piping plover (Charadrius melodus), an imperiled shorebird that inhabits the shorelines of the Great Lakes, southeastern states and Gulf of Mexico. The Service will be holding informational hearings in the affected states this summer and take public comments before finalizing this proposal.
In the wintering areas, critical habitat is being proposed along 1672 miles of coastline in North and South Carolina, Georgia, Florida, Alabama, Mississippi, Louisiana and Texas. These include coastal areas with intertidal beaches and flats and associated dune systems and flats above annual high tide. Intertidal sites offer foraging and roosting sites while areas above high tide provide refuge from high winds and cold weather.
"We do not expect additional regulatory requirements from this designation," said Sam D. Hamilton, Southeast Regional Director, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. "The piping plover is protected, and we already consider the impact of Federal actions on this species and its habitat. Critical habitat should not impact the daily activities of the public as they enjoy beach areas."
A critical habitat designation does not set up a preserve or refuge and only applies to situations where federal funding or a federal permit is involved. For example, designation of critical habitat does not affect a landowner undertaking a project on private land that does not involve Federal funding or require a Federal permit or authorization.
Not all areas found within the boundaries designated as critical habitat are essential for the conservation of the species. For example, roads, lawns, paved areas and other man-made structures would not be considered critical habitat. Only areas containing important components of habitat will receive protection as critical habitat.
Critical habitat for the breeding populations of piping plovers on the Great Lakes is being proposed along approximately 189 miles of shoreline. This includes areas that support, or have the potential to support, open, sparsely vegetated sandy habitats such as sand spits or sand beaches associated with wide, unforested systems of dunes and inter-dune wetlands, and the plover’s prey species.
Within these areas, specific habitat features needed by piping plover include patches of vegetation, cobble, debris such as driftwood, and other forms of protective cover for nests and chicks.
"It is possible that some Federally owned beaches in the Great Lakes will be temporarily closed during the spring-time in order to determine which areas may be utilized for nesting, ” said Bill Hartwig, Regional Director for the Great Lakes/Big Rivers Region.
Critical habitat refers to specific geographic areas that are essential for the conservation of a threatened or endangered species and may require special management considerations. These areas do not necessarily have to be occupied by the species at the time of designation.
“The Service will continue to work closely with all of our partners to help protect and recover the piping plover,” said the Service’s Southwest Regional Director Nancy Kaufman. “Critical habitat gives us another way to help educate the public about the habitat needs of endangered species.”
The piping plover (Charadrius melodus) is named for its melodic mating call. It is a small, pale-colored North American shorebird. The bird’s light sand-colored plumage blends in with sandy beaches and shorelines. There are three populations of piping plovers in the United States. The most endangered is the Great Lakes breeding population, which encompasses only 32 breeding pairs. The Northern Great Plains and Atlantic Coast populations are classified as threatened and include 1398 and 1372 breeding pairs respectively. All piping plovers winter along the southeast and Gulf coasts and are classified as threatened in their wintering habitat.
In recent decades, piping plover populations have drastically declined, especially in the Great Lakes Region. Breeding habitat has been replaced by shoreline development and recreational uses causing plover numbers to plummet. Similar threats face the species on its wintering grounds where loss of habitat threatens the ability of these birds to survive to the next breeding season.
As a listed species under the Endangered Species Act, the piping plover is already protected wherever it occurs and Federal agencies are required to consult on any action they take which might affect the species. The designation of critical habitat will help the species by ensuring Federal agencies and the public alike are aware of the habitat needs of this species and that proper consultation is conducted when required by law.
Today’s proposal is in response to lawsuits brought by Defenders of Wildlife. As a result, the Service was directed to publish proposed critical habitat for the breeding and wintering habitat for the Great Lakes population of the piping plover by June 30, 2000, with a finalized designation due by April 30, 2001. The Service was also ordered to designate critical habitat for the Great Plains population by May 31, 2001 with a final rule by March 15, 2002. At this time, two separate proposals are being published, one for the Great Lakes breeding habitat and one for the wintering habitat for all piping plovers.
A complete description of the two proposed critical habitat designations for the breeding population along the Great Lakes and wintering populations of piping plovers will be published in the Federal Register. Copies of the proposals and maps are available by contacting the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service at the addresses below or may be downloaded from the Worldwide Web at http://southeast.fws.gov.
The Service will accept written comments from the public for 60 days following publication in the Federal Register. Written comments on the Great Lakes proposal should be submitted to Piping Plover Comment, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, 1 Federal Drive, Fort Snelling, MN 55111. Comments may also be sent electronically to: firstname.lastname@example.org Comments for the wintering population proposal should be sent to Field Supervisor, Corpus Christi Field Office, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, c/o TAMU-CC, Campus Box 338, 6300 Ocean Drive, Corpus Christi, TX 78412. Comments may also be sent electronically to: email@example.com.
Public hearings will be held this summer on the designation of critical habitat in Great Lakes communities in Wisconsin, Michigan, Indiana, Ohio and New York; and in the coastal communities of North and South Carolina, Georgia, Florida, Alabama, Mississippi, Louisiana, and Texas (schedule of hearings is attached).
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 93-million-acre National Wildlife Refuge System comprised of more than 520 national wildlife refuges, thousands of small wetlands, and other special management areas. It also operates 66 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.
Public Hearings on Critical Habitat for the Piping Plover
Release #: R00-028