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Habitat Conservation Plans
Michigan DNR - Karner Blue Butterfly


Draft: Michigan Karner Blue Butterfly Habitat Conservation Plan

Photo of a Karner blue butterfly on a flower.
Photo by Ann Swengel


Prepared by:

Michigan Department of Natural Resources
Wildlife Division
Stevens T. Mason Building
P.O. Box 30180
Lansing, MI 48909

Submitted to:

U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service
East Lansing Field Office
2651 Coolidge Road, Suite 101
East Lansing, Michigan 48823
November 2, 2007


Below is the Introduction to the HCP. Click for the complete 113-page (PDF) Michigan Karner Blue Butterfly HCP.



1.1 Purpose

This Habitat Conservation Plan (HCP) has been developed to facilitate the conservation of the Oak Savanna Ecosystem, Karner blue butterfly (Lycaeides melissa samuelis; KBB) and other associated species of concern on non-Federal land in Michigan. It outlines activities that will be conducted to maintain the early-successional habitat conditions necessary to support savanna species and communities. It also integrates diverse land uses with conservation objectives by outlining measures to avoid, minimize and mitigate take of KBB and other species that could be caused by activities in occupied KBB habitat. In this way, this HCP supports the issuance of an incidental take permit (ITP) pursuant to section 10(a)(1)(B) of the Federal Endangered Species Act of 1973, as amended (87 Stat 884, 16 U.S.C. § 1531 et seq.; ESA).


1.2. Background

Historically, habitats within the Oak Savanna Ecosystem were maintained in an earlysuccessional state by a natural disturbance regime that included frequent fire, windthrow, wild herbivore grazing, and insect and disease outbreak (Nuzzo 1986, Grundel et al. 1998, Ritchie et al. 1998, Fuhlendorf and Engle 2001). The practice of widespread fire suppression that began following European settlement interrupted the primary mechanism that historically maintained this ecosystem (Haney and Apfelbaum 1990, Faber-Langendoen 1991, Abrams 1992, O’Connor 2006). The Oak Savanna Ecosystem has been reduced to fragmented and often-degraded remnants as a result of land conversion and fire suppression (Nuzzo 1986, O’Connor 2006).


Many savanna species, including KBB (Andow et al. 1994), declined or were locally extirpated as habitat was degraded or destroyed (Leach and Ross 1995). The range-wide decline prompted the 1992 classification of KBB as federally endangered (U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service 1992). Throughout the period of widespread population decline, however, KBB populations in Michigan and Wisconsin remained comparatively robust (U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service 2003a). Many of these KBB populations survived on a public land base, where land-management practices designed to benefit wildlife like white-tailed deer (Odocoileus virginianus), wild turkey (Meleagris gallopavo) and ruffed grouse (Bonasa umbellus) also benefited KBB.

Within Michigan, KBB is currently known to occur on approximately 3,900 acres within 10 counties in the western Lower Peninsula (Fettinger 2005; Figure 1). The Federal Karner Blue Butterfly Recovery Plan (U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service 2003a) divides existing KBB range within the State into four Recovery Units. Additional areas with potential to contribute to the long-term recovery of the species have also been identified (Figure 2).


Occupied KBB habitat in Michigan is almost equally divided between public (51%) and private (49%) land (Table 1). On public land, Federal land encompasses 57% of all known occupied habitat. The remaining 43% of occupied KBB habitat on public land occurs within a mix of State, county and local ownerships. Non-public land encompassing occupied KBB habitat includes ownerships by non-governmental organizations, utility companies, railroad companies, and other private entities. The majority of non-public land with occupied KBB habitat consists of many small, privately owned parcels.


Currently, major threats to the Oak Savanna Ecosystem, KBB and other associated savanna species in Michigan are: 1) habitat succession due to suppression of the natural disturbance regime; 2) management and maintenance practices that are incompatible with the conservation of those natural features; and 3) habitat conversion and fragmentation due to development and other land uses. The Michigan DNR developed this HCP to help minimize and mitigate these threats on both private and non-Federal public land throughout the distribution of KBB in Michigan.


Active habitat management is necessary for the conservation of oak savanna, KBB and other savanna species. However, some management practices (e.g., prescribed burning, mowing) necessary for maintaining early-successional habitats may result in take of KBB. In addition, other land uses in occupied KBB habitat may cause take of KBB. Given that section 9 of the ESA restricts take of endangered species, an ITP associated with this HCP is necessary to provide the legal authority to conduct management in occupied KBB habitat and to integrate diverse land uses with conservation objectives.


In the absence of a comprehensive HCP and associated ITP, land managers and landowners would need to obtain incidental-take authorization on an individual, project-specific basis to legally conduct the activities listed above. This situation would result in a patchwork of projects conducted with little or no coordinated planning or consideration of range-wide impacts to KBB and other associate species of concern. By contrast, projects implemented under this HCP will be authorized by a single ITP. Projects will be implemented according to consistent conditions, and HCP management partners will coordinate management activities and benefit from predictable regulatory approaches. This HCP will therefore facilitate efforts to evaluate and minimize the cumulative adverse impacts of individual projects to particular KBB populations.


1.3 Permit Duration

The desired term of the ITP is 20 years. This duration reflects the approximate amount of time the Federal recovery plan projects as necessary to biologically recover KBB (USFWS 2003a). If recovery requires more time than currently anticipated, the DNR may apply for extension of the ITP.


1.4 Regulatory/Legal Framework for Plan

KBB is listed as an endangered species under authority of the ESA. Take of endangered species is restricted by section 9 of the ESA. Under the ESA, ‘take’ means to harass, harm, pursue, hunt, shoot, wound, kill, trap, capture or collect a federally listed threatened or endangered species or to attempt to engage in any such conduct. KBB require early-successional habitats (U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service 2003a), and management needed to maintain these habitats may result in take of individuals. The take restriction therefore limits the options available to manage habitat or to perform right-of-way maintenance, and it precludes public and private development activities in areas occupied by KBB.


Under certain circumstances, however, section 10 of the ESA allows exceptions from the restriction on take. An ITP under section 10(a)(1)(B) allows incidental take associated with otherwise lawful activity. An HCP, intended to minimize and mitigate take authorized by an ITP, must be submitted with the permit application. By law, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS) can not issue a permit that would jeopardize the continued existence of a listed species. In consultation with the USFWS, the Michigan DNR identified an ITP as the most appropriate regulatory instrument to facilitate conservation of occupied KBB habitat in Michigan.


Activities conducted under this HCP also must comply with State law. Similar to the ESA, the Michigan Endangered Species Protection Law (Public Act 451 of 1994, Part 365) prohibits take of State endangered and threatened species, including KBB. However, section 36504 of the law allows the Michigan DNR to “establish programs . . . as are considered necessary for the management of endangered or threatened species.” The same section continues: “In implementing the programs authorized by this section, the [Michigan DNR] may enter into cooperative agreements with Federal and State agencies, political subdivisions of the State, or with private persons for the administration and management of any area or program established under this section . . .” Given these provisions, the conservation and partnering activities outlined in this HCP are consistent with this law.


1.5 Plan Area

The HCP area potentially includes all occupied KBB habitat on non-Federal land in Michigan. Within the State, KBB is currently known to occur on approximately 3,900 acres within 10 counties in the western Lower Peninsula (Fettinger 2005; Figure 1); roughly 2,700 of those acres occur on non-Federal land. Counties with known occupied KBB habitat include Allegan, Ionia, Kent, Lake, Mason, Mecosta, Montcalm, Muskegon, Newaygo and Oceana. KBB was also found in Monroe County in southeastern Michigan as recently as 1986, but is now believed to be extirpated from that portion of the State.


The Federal Karner Blue Butterfly Recovery Plan (USFWS 2003a) divides the existing KBB range within Michigan into four Recovery Units (Allegan, Ionia, Muskegon and Newaygo) that are located in the western portion of the Lower Peninsula and extend from the Indiana State line nearly to Traverse City (Figure 2). These Recovery Units correspond to the landscapes defined by Albert (1995) as the Allegan, Ionia, Manistee and Newaygo Outwash Plains Subsections and contain all currently known KBB occurrences in Michigan. Acres of known occupied KBB habitat within each Recovery Unit are provided in Table 1. As a part of contingency planning, the rest of the State was assigned to either a Recovery Unit Annex or a Potential Recovery Unit (Figure 2). Any additional occupied KBB habitat created or discovered in the future would be included in the HCP area and could be covered by the ITP, regardless of whether it occurred in a Recovery Unit, Recovery Unit Annex or Potential Recovery Unit.


Above is the Introduction to the HCP. Click for the complete 113-page (PDF) Michigan Karner Blue Butterfly HCP.




Last updated: April 14, 2015