Northern Indiana Utilities Offer Draft Plan to Conserve Rare Butterfly; U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service Seeks Comments
A draft plan to conserve the federally endangered Karner blue butterfly on lands owned and managed by two northern Indiana utility companies is available for review and comment, according to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.
Northern Indiana Public Service Company (NIPSCO) and Indiana American Water Company (IAWC) have presented the Service with a draft plan that describes ways the companies will manage their lands to conserve the butterfly and its habitat on 86 acres of rights-of-way in Lake and Porter counties. The draft Habitat Conservation Plan, or HCP, includes measures that would offset impacts to the species and its habitat resulting from maintenance and other activities carried out by the utilities on the rights-of-way.
NIPSCO owns and maintains a number of electric transmission lines and natural gas pipeline rights-of-way in northern Indiana, including lands where endangered Karner blue butterflies occur. IAWC owns a corridor for an underground water pipeline in an area where the butterflies live. These areas support wild lupine, a flowering plant that is the sole food source for larval Karner blues.
The draft plan spells out measures the companies would take to conduct maintenance of their lands and facilities with minimal impact to the Karner blue butterfly. These measures include vegetation management practices – such as mowing or hand-cutting – that result in conditions favored by wild lupine; maintaining a minimum acreage of wild lupine; planting additional wild lupine, as well as other nectar plants used by adult butterflies; permanent conservation and management of more than 12 acres of land to encourage use by Karner blue butterflies; and monitoring of the butterfly and lupine to ensure management actions are effective.
If the plan is approved by the Service, the companies will be issued an “incidental take” permit, which allows a limited number of butterflies to be affected by maintenance activities, as long as the companies continue to implement conservation actions contained in the habitat conservation plan. This provision under the Endangered Species Act is meant to allow activities on private land that might harm or kill endangered or threatened animals, as long as long-term conservation is guaranteed. The Act prohibits harming and killing species listed as endangered or threatened.
The Service has made a preliminary determination that approval of the proposed plan qualifies as a categorical exclusion under the National Environmental Policy Act and as a “low-effect” plan. Determination of low-effect habitat conservation plans is based on three criteria: (1) implementation of the proposed plan would result in minor or negligible effects on federally listed, proposed, and candidate species and their habitats; (2) implementation of the proposed plan would result in minor or negligible effects on other environmental values or resources; and (3) impacts of the proposed plan, considered together with the impacts of other past, present, and reasonably foreseeable similarly situated projects, would not result in cumulative effects to environmental values or resources which would be considered significant.
The draft Habitat Conservation Plan and Low Effect Determination are available below. Copies may also be obtained by calling (612) 713-5343, by e-mailing to email@example.com, or by writing to: Peter Fasbender, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, Ecological Services, 1 Federal Drive, Fort Snelling, MN 55111-4056.
Written comments may be submitted by mail or e-mail to the addresses listed above, or via fax to (612)713-5292. Comments should be submitted no later than August 18, 2005.
Appendix A - Maps/Figures
Appendix B - 2004 Baseline Monitoring
Appendix A of B - Wisconsin DNR KBB Survey Protocol
Appendix B of B - Wild Lupine Population Maps
Appendix C of B - Wild Lupine Population Notes
Appendix D of B - KBB Population Maps
Appendix E of B - Photographs
Appendix C - Application for Incidental Take Permit
Appendix D - Implementing Agreement
Appendix E - Photos of Equipment Potentially Used on Right of Way
Appendix F - Excerpt of Wisconsin Protocol (Prescribed Burning)