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Mountain-Prairie Region


Piping Plover



                                                        Finding of No Significant Impact
                                Designation of Critical Habitat for the Northern Great Plains
                                                   Breeding Population of the Piping Plover

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service is designating critical habitat for the northern Great Plains breeding population of the piping plover (Charadrius melodus) pursuant to section 4 of the Endangered Species Act of 1973, as amended. The designation encompasses approximately
19 critical habitat units containing prairie alkali wetlands, inland and reservoir lakes, totaling approximately 183,422 acres (74,228.4 hectares) and portions of four rivers totaling approximately 1,207.5 river miles (1,943.3 kilometers) in the States of Minnesota, Montana, Nebraska, North Dakota, and South Dakota. The designated critical habitat includes Federal, non-Federal, and tribal lands.

The Service prepared an Environmental Assessment for the designation of critical habitat for the northern Great Plains breeding population of the piping plover which analyzed four alternatives, including: No Action, Designation as Identified in the Final Rule, Essential Habitat Identified in the 1988 Great Lakes and Northern Great Plains Piping Plover Recovery Plan, and Essential Habitat Identified in the 1994 Technical/Agency Draft Revised Recovery Plan for the Great Lakes and Northern Great Plains Piping Plover.

The designation has been coordinated with all interested and/or affected parties. Parties contacted include the Bureau of Reclamation, Bureau of Land Management, Corps of Engineers, Bureau of Indian Affairs, Natural Resource Conservation Service, Federal Highway Administration, Farm Services Agency, tribal, State, local government, and private interests.
A draft environmental assessment was distributed to all interested and/or affected parties on
July 6, 2001, for a 45-day public comment period. This comment period was extended from December 28, 2001, for 30 days and extended again on March 21, 2002, for another 60 days for
a total of 135 days. All comments received were analyzed and, where appropriate, were incorporated into the final environmental assessment, final addendum to the economic analysis and/or the Final Rule.

The proposed action is to designate critical habitat for the northern Great Plains breeding population of the piping plover as identified in the final rule. This alternative best meets the requirements of critical habitat designation as defined in section 3 of the Endangered Species Act. This alternative provides the specific areas within the geographic area occupied by the species, on which are found those physical or biological features essential to the conservation of the species. This alternative was selected after reviewing the previously mentioned alternatives, the most recent and best scientific and commercial data available, and all comments received during the comment periods for the proposed rule and the draft environmental assessment. The proposed action best represents the current state of science for this species and meets the critical habitat definition. The designation is not expected to have any significant adverse effects on wetlands and floodplains, or to the human environment.

Based on a review and evaluation of the information contained in the environmental assessment, it is my determination that the designation of critical habitat for the northern Great Plains breeding population of the piping plover does not constitute a major Federal action significantly affecting the quality of the human environment under the meaning of section 102(2)(c) of the National Environmental Policy Act of 1969 (as amended). As such, an environmental impact statement is not required.

/s/ Ralph O. Morgenweck                                                                     10/11/02
_____________________________________________                 _______________
Ralph O. Morgenweck                                                                         Date
Regional Director, Region 6

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