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Endangered Species Program
Conserving and restoring threatened and endangered species and their ecosystems
Karner Blue Butterfly:
Wisconsin's Statewide Habitat Conservation Plan
Habitat Conservation Plans are receiving attention all over the country. These plans have the potential to conserve species on private lands and contribute to recovery of Federally endangered species.
The State of Wisconsin is a stronghold for the endangered Karner Blue Butterfly. Wisconsin's Department of Natural Resources (DNR) wants to keep it that way. However, the Karner lives and roams wherever it finds suitable habitat, regardless of who owns it. It is found on private and state lands where it may be killed or its habitat destroyed. Activities like timber harvests, prescribed burns, and rights-of-way mowing may destroy Karner Blue Butterflies and their habitat or they may cause immediate harm but actually improve habitat over time.
The Endangered Species Act prohibits the "take" (i.e., destruction or harm) of threatened or endangered species unless a permit is obtained from the U.S.Fish and Wildlife Service. The permit is called an "Incidental Take Permit" and is obtained only after a Habitat Conservation Plan is developed. The Habitat Conservation Plan identifies how "take" will be reduced and identifies the actions that will be used to compensate for "take" that occurs. The Wisconsin DNR and 25 partners, including forest industry partners, utility companies, and non-governmental conservation organizations prepared a Habitat Conservation Plan so that they and the citizens of the State could continue to conduct their normal activities but the Karner Blue Butterfly and its habitat would be conserved.
For nearly five years, we (Region 3 of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service) have been working with this large group of partners, with the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources as the lead, on a statewide Habitat Conservation Plan for the Karner Blue Butterfly in Wisconsin. This plan represents a tremendous effort by a diverse partnership and has the potential to ensure habitat for the Karner Blue Butterfly in suitable areas across the state.
We received the Habitat Conservation Plan (Plan) and Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) along with an application for an Incidental Take Permit under the Endangered Species Act in April, 1999. Based on information in the Plan, the EIS, and public comments on the Plan and EIS, we issued a permit covering all citizens of the State of Wisconsin. The permit authorizes take of the butterfly during otherwise lawful activities. In reality, the Karner blue butterfly benefits from many of those activities even though individual butterflies or their eggs are destroyed. This is because Karners depend on open areas (i.e., vegetated with grasses and herbs). If its habitat is not managed, shrubs and trees take over and Karners (and other species that use open areas) can no longer survive. The Service believes the activities that will occur under this permit will promote long term conservation and recovery for the Karner blue butterfly.
Links to more information about the Karner Blue Butterfly and the Habitat Conservation Plan
Last updated: October 10, 2018