[Federal Register: March 5, 2010 (Volume 75, Number 43)]
[Page 10309-10311]
From the Federal Register Online via GPO Access [wais.access.gpo.gov]



Fish and Wildlife Service

[FWS-R3-ES-2010-N004; 30120-1122-0000-F2]

Wisconsin Statewide Habitat Conservation Plan for Karner Blue 

AGENCY: Fish and Wildlife Service, Interior.

ACTION: Notice of availability: draft environmental assessment and 
updated habitat conservation plan in support of an application to 
renew/amend incidental take permit number TE010064-5.


SUMMARY: We, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (Service), have 
received an application from the State of Wisconsin, Department of 
Natural Resources (Applicant), for renewal of an incidental take permit 
(ITP) under the Endangered Species Act of 1973 (Act). If approved, the 
permit would be for a 10-year period and would authorize incidental 
take of the endangered Karner blue butterfly (Lycaeides melissa 
samuelis) throughout the State of Wisconsin. We request public comment 
on the application and associated documents.

DATES: To ensure consideration, please send your written comments on or 
before May 4, 2010.

ADDRESSES: Send written comments via U.S. mail to the Regional 
Director, Attn: Lisa Mandell, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, 
Ecological Services, 1 Federal Drive, Fort Snelling, MN 55111-4056, or 
by electronic mail to permitsR3ES@fws.gov.

FOR FURTHER INFORMATION CONTACT: Lisa Mandell, (612) 713-5164.



    Under the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA; 42 U.S.C. 4371 
et seq.), we announce that we have gathered the information necessary 
to: (1) Determine the impacts and formulate alternatives for an 
environmental assessment related to renewal of an incidental take 
permit for the Applicant; and (2) approve the habitat conservation plan 
(HCP), which provides measures to minimize and mitigate the effects of 
the proposed incidental take of the Federally listed Karner blue 
butterfly to the maximum extent practicable, under section 10(a)(1)(B) 
of the Act (16 U.S.C. 1531 et seq.).
    If we renew the permit, we would authorize take for 10 years in 
conjunction with implementation of the updated HCP which the applicant 
has prepared. The applicant has been operating under Fish and Wildlife 
Permit TE010064 for a period of 10 years (1999-2009), and the 
incidental take would continue throughout the State of Wisconsin, if we 
renew the permit. Incidental take occurs as a result of impacts of 
otherwise lawful land use and land management actions. These activities 
have been altered under the HCP to minimize and mitigate the effects of 
incidental take of Karner blue butterflies and the habitats upon which 
they depend. We have issued an environmental assessment to evaluate the 
impacts of the alternatives for renewal of the incidental take permit, 
including the no action alternative.
    In the 1990s, the State of Wisconsin initiated a unique partnership 
with a variety of land managers in Wisconsin to develop a statewide HCP 
for the Karner blue butterfly. For a period of approximately 5 years, 
partners gathered regularly and worked with the Service on an 
innovative plan to incorporate considerations for the Karner blue 
butterfly into land-use activities. Partners include the forest 
industry, utility companies, road management authorities, The Nature

[[Page 10310]]

Conservancy, and private landowners. The effort culminated in September 
1999 with the signing of an Implementing Agreement and issuance of an 
ITP. The DNR serves as the permit holder and administers the 
implementation of the Statewide plan. At the outset, 26 partners were 
part of the HCP. In the first 10 years of implementation, the list of 
partners has grown to 39 major land-management entities.
    In addition to the partners in this effort, the DNR proposed and 
implemented a unique approach to include small landowners in the 
conservation effort on a voluntary basis. This voluntary strategy has 
proved to be successful in garnering additional conservation and 
protection of butterfly habitat, without the ``fear'' sometimes 
associated with government regulation.
    Management protocols have been refined, populations of butterflies 
have increased and others discovered, and a number of improvements 
resulted from what has been learned through adaptive management. This 
HCP has been lauded as an innovative and successful approach to 
endangered species conservation.
    The Karner blue butterfly depends on ecological disturbance, which 
maintains the early successional habitat in which its specific host 
plant survives. Proper management, with specific strategies to conserve 
the butterfly, results in increases of habitat and in the population. 
In the case of this species, cessation of habitat management and an 
absence of natural wildfire regimes would lead to habitat that would 
not support survival of the species into the future. Since the 
butterfly thrives in concert with habitat manipulation and management, 
it has been an ideal species for a conservation plan.
    The HCP has been updated to consolidate the conservation measures 
found in the original HCP and to allow for easy access by partners 
implementing the plan. In addition, the DNR has developed an 
implementation handbook, called the HCP User's Guide, which is 
available online. It includes management protocols for a wide range of 
covered activities, such as habitat restoration, timber harvest, 
mowing, and burning. To understand the breadth of management activities 
that are incorporated into the HCP, please visit the DNR's Web site at 
    The updated draft HCP includes an improved conservation program, a 
focused effort on recovery properties to enhance long-term survival and 
recovery of the butterfly, biological modeling to predict butterfly 
occurrence and flights, and improvements concerning compliance 
monitoring and reporting.

Purpose and Need for Action

    The purpose for which we have prepared an Environmental Assessment 
is to respond to the applicant's request for an ITP renewal for the 
Karner blue butterfly. This involves the continuation of activities 
that have the potential to result in incidental take of the butterfly 
through implementation of the Wisconsin Statewide HCP. The applicant's 
updated HCP balances the long-term survival and recovery of the species 
with resource management in Wisconsin, allowing for otherwise lawful 
activities to proceed, while accommodating the needs of the species. It 
ensures the long-term survival of the species through protection and 
proactive habitat management and it ensures compliance with the Act, 
NEPA, and other applicable laws and regulations pursuant to section 
10(a)(1)(B) of the Act and its implementing regulations and policies.

Proposed Action

    The requested duration of the ITP is 10 years. The plan is a 
Statewide conservation plan and the ITP would cover the take of the 
Karner blue butterfly in Wisconsin. A map of the species' high 
potential range is included on the Service's Web site, referenced below 
under Reviewing Documents and Submitting Comments. Activities that 
would continue to be covered under the ITP include a variety of land 
management activities. These include forestry/timber harvest, right-of-
way management (mowing/brushing), pesticide application, recreation 
management, prescribed burning, snow removal, and others. The proposed 
action is the renewal of ITP Number TE010064 to authorize take of the 
Karner blue butterfly within the State of Wisconsin, under section 
10(a)(1)(B) of the Act. Incidental take anticipated under this permit 
application is specific to the Karner blue butterfly in the form of 
habitat impacts, direct take of butterflies resulting from management 
and direct take for completing research and monitoring under the HCP. 
The HCP provides measures to modify activities to minimize and mitigate 
the effects of the proposed incidental take. The biological goal of the 
HCP is to provide long-term suitable habitat for the species. The 
restoration and maintenance of suitable habitat and ecosystem functions 
necessary to ensure long-term viability of butterfly populations 
ensures survival and recovery of the species.


    Two alternatives were fully evaluated in the environmental 
assessment prepared for this action, renewal of the ITP and no action/
denial of the permit. One additional alternative, issuance of a permit 
with additional measures specified by the Service, was discussed but 
eliminated from further consideration. Renewal of the ITP for another 
10-year period would allow for continued implementation of the HCP, 
which has become the normal way of doing business in Wisconsin. 
Partners and other citizens in Wisconsin have embraced conservation of 
the species and have altered their activities accordingly. The DNR has 
been an effective administrator of this permit since 1999 and has 
coordinated closely with the Service to apply adaptive management 
principles where needed. Protocols have been developed for additional 
types of activities and the DNR has worked closely with the 
implementation and oversight committee, established in the HCP, to 
effectively monitor compliance with the program, both in terms of 
statutory compliance and effectiveness in meeting biological goals. For 
all intents and purposes, forecasting the next 10 years of 
implementation amounts to at least the status quo and, more likely, 
increased habitat for the butterfly. Habitat management would continue 
to be completed in a manner that accommodates the needs of the Karner 
blue butterfly, and the species would continue to thrive and recover in 
    The no action alternative would result in a denial of the request 
to renew the ITP. In this case, the no action alternative would 
actually result in a larger change in the landscape and in the 
implementation of conservation activities for the Karner blue 
butterfly. If the Statewide permit ceases to exist, multiple landowners 
(at least 39, who are now partners in the HCP) would be in the position 
of needing to develop an HCP and apply for a permit from the Service. 
Each application would undergo processing and review under ESA and 
NEPA. Where butterflies currently exist, habitat management that 
incidentally takes butterflies could not proceed. Vegetation succession 
would follow and the plant community would no longer support the Karner 
blue butterfly. In addition, the small private landowners who are 
currently covered by the Statewide HCP would be subject to ESA 
compliance wherever butterflies exist. There would be a disincentive to

[[Page 10311]]

managing the habitat to promote persistence of the butterfly, and the 
assurances they have received under the current conservation program 
would cease. Landowners who wish to proactively conserve their land to 
promote recovery of the butterfly in Wisconsin would need their own 
permits under Section 10, with an HCP or Safe Harbor Agreement for 
their lands.

Reviewing Documents and Submitting Comments

    Please refer to TE010064 when requesting documents or submitting 
comments. The permit application and supporting documents (updated 
draft HCP and draft EA) may be obtained on the Internet at the 
following address: http://www.fws.gov/midwest/endangered/permits/hcp/
r3hcps.html. In addition, the original HCP, dated March 2000, may be 
viewed on the Wisconsin DNR Web site at http://dnr.wi.gov/forestry/
karner/. Persons without access to the Internet may obtain copies of 
the documents (application, updated draft HCP, and draft EA) by 
contacting the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, Ecological Services 
Field Office, 2661 Scott Tower Drive, New Franken, WI 54229-9565 (920/
866-1717, voice; 920/866-1710, fax). The documents will also be 
available for public inspection, by appointment, during normal business 
hours (8 a.m. to 4:30 p.m.) at the Ecological Services Field Office in 
New Franken and at the Service's Regional Office, Ecological Services, 
Bishop Henry Whipple Federal Building, 1 Federal Drive, 6th Floor, Ft. 
Snelling, MN 55111 (612/713-5164, voice; 612/713-5292, fax). Written 
comments will be accepted as described above.

Public Availability of Comments

    Written comments we receive become part of the public record 
associated with this action. Before including your address, phone 
number, e-mail address, or other personal identifying information in 
your comment, you should be aware that the entire comment, including 
your personal identifying information, may be made available at any 
time. While you can ask us in your comment to withhold your personal 
identifying information from public review, we cannot guarantee that we 
will be able to do so.

    Authority : We provide this notice under section 10(c) of the 
Act (16 U.S.C. 1531 et seq.) and its implementing regulations (50 
CFR 17.22), and NEPA (42 U.S.C. 4371 et seq.) and its implementing 
regulations (40 CFR 1506.6).

T.J. Miller,
Acting, Assistant Regional Director, Ecological Services, Region 3, 
Fort Snelling, Minnesota.
[FR Doc. 2010-4708 Filed 3-4-10; 8:45 am]