Service approves incidental take permit for NiSource multi-state Habitat Conservation Plan
The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service has issued an incidental take permit under the Endangered Species Act to NiSource Inc., a natural gas pipeline and transmission company, in conjunction with the company’s comprehensive plan to conserve dozens of endangered species while operating and maintaining its network of pipelines in 14 northeastern, Midwest and southeastern states.
The habitat conservation plan covers activities in 14 states: Delaware, Indiana, Kentucky, Louisiana, Maryland, Mississippi, New Jersey, New York, North Carolina, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Tennessee, Virginia and West Virginia.
The incidental take permit was approved after the Service evaluated NiSource’s habitat conservation plan to conserve federally endangered and threatened species while carrying out maintenance and other activities along the network.
The Endangered Species Act requires an approved habitat conservation plan before an incidental take permit is granted. Habitat conservation plans are agreements between a landowner or private company and the Service, allowing permit applicants to undertake otherwise lawful activities on their property that may result in the incidental death, injury or harassment of a federally endangered or threatened species; the applicant agrees to conservation measures designed to minimize and mitigate the impact of those actions.
“The habitat conservation plan developed by NiSource represents the new model for endangered species conservation and corporate wildlife stewardship,” said Tom Melius, the Service’s Midwest Regional Director. “This plan is an efficient and effective mechanism to address the conservation needs of listed species on a landscape scale, and it gives NiSource the ability to plan its activities in the long term.”
“We’ve laid out an innovative approach to helping ensure the predictability and efficiency of the federal ESA permitting process, and importantly, we do it in a way that provides greater benefit for protected species,” said Jimmy Staton, Chief Executive Officer of NiSource’s Columbia Pipeline Group. “The HCP will result in enhanced regulatory and compliance certainty, and helps further our goal of environmental sustainability as we proceed with the systematic modernization of our pipeline system.”
The Service developed an environmental impact statement to evaluate the possible impacts of implementing NiSource’s habitat conservation plan and the potential effects of granting an incidental take permit under the Endangered Species Act.
NiSource’s habitat conservation plan addresses conservation needs for 10 federally endangered, threatened or proposed species for which take might occur, including the endangered Indiana bat, clubshell, fanshell, James spinymussel, northern riffleshell (mussel), sheepnose (mussel), American burying beetle, and Nashville crayfish; and two threatened species, the bog turtle and Madison cave isopod. Additionally, the habitat conservation plan analyzes the impact of operations on 32 other threatened, endangered and candidate species and provides measures to avoid take of those species.
NiSource’s plan includes measures to avoid or reduce impacts on those species resulting from business activities, as well as mitigation practices such as protecting existing habitat, creating new habitat for protected species, and identifying research to better understand endangered species.
For more information about the NiSource habitat conservation plan, including a list of covered species and lands, go to:www.fws.gov/midwest/Endangered/permits/hcp/nisource/
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