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E-M:/ GLIN:\ US FWS on Piping Plover

Enviro-Mich message from "Alex J. Sagady & Associates" <ajs@sagady.com>

GLIN Content....

Press Release Contact: Vicki Fox: 505/248-6455
June 30, 2000 Lee Elliott: 361/994-9005
Laura Ragan: 612/713-5157
Cindy Hoffman: 202/208-3008


The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service is proposing to designate critical
habitat for the piping plover (Charadrius melodus), an imperiled shorebird 
that inhabits the shorelines of the Great Lakes, southeastern states and 
Gulf of Mexico.

The Service will be holding informational hearings in the affected states 
this summer
and take public comments before finalizing this proposal.

Critical habitat for the breeding populations of piping plovers on the
Great Lakes is being proposed along approximately 189 miles of shoreline.
This includes areas that support, or have the potential to support, open,
sparsely vegetated sandy habitats such as sand spits or sand beaches
associated with wide, unforested systems of dunes and inter-dune wetlands,
and the plover's prey species. Within these areas, specific habitat
features needed by piping plover include patches of vegetation, cobble,
debris such as driftwood, and other forms of protective cover for nests and

In the wintering areas, critical habitat is being proposed along 1672 miles
of coastline in North and South Carolina, Georgia, Florida, Alabama,
Mississippi, Louisiana and Texas. These include coastal areas with
intertidal beaches and flats and associated dune systems and flats above
annual high tide. Intertidal sites offer foraging and roosting sites while
areas above high tide provide refuge from high winds and cold weather.

"It is possible that some Federally owned beaches in the Great Lakes will
be temporarily closed during the spring-time in order to determine which
areas may be utilized for nesting," said Bill Hartwig, Regional Director
for the Great Lakes/Big Rivers Region.

Critical habitat refers to specific geographic areas that are essential for
the conservation of a threatened or endangered species and may require
special management considerations. These areas do not necessarily have to
be occupied by the species at the time of designation.

A critical habitat designation does not set up a preserve or refuge and
only applies to situations where federal funding or a federal permit is
involved. For example, the designation of critical habitat does not affect
a landowner undertaking a project on private land that does not involve
Federal funding or require a Federal permit or authorization.

Not all areas found within the boundaries designated as critical habitat
are essential for the conservation of the species. For example, roads,
lawns, paved areas and other man-made structures would not be considered
critical habitat. Only areas containing important components of habitat
will receive protection as critical habitat.

"The Service will continue to work closely with all of our partners to help
protect and recover the piping plover," said the Service's Southwest
Regional Director Nancy Kaufman. "Critical habitat gives us another way to
help educate the public about the habitat needs of endangered species."

The piping plover (Charadrius melodus) is named for its melodic mating
call. It is a small, pale-colored North American shorebird. The bird's
light sand-colored plumage blends in with sandy beaches and shorelines.
There are three populations of piping plovers in the United States. The
most endangered is the Great Lakes breeding population, which encompasses
only 32 breeding pairs. The Northern Great Plains and Atlantic Coast
populations are classified as threatened and include 1398 and 1372 breeding
pairs respectively. All piping plovers winter along the southeast and Gulf
coasts and are classified as threatened in their wintering habitat.

In recent decades, piping plover populations have drastically declined,
especially in the Great Lakes Region. Breeding habitat has been replaced
by shoreline development and recreational uses causing plover numbers to
plummet. Similar threats face the species on its wintering grounds where
loss of habitat threatens the ability of these birds to survive to the next
breeding season.

As a listed species under the Endangered Species Act, the piping plover is
already protected wherever it occurs and Federal agencies are required to
consult on any action they take which might affect the species. The
designation of critical habitat will help the species by ensuring Federal
agencies and the public alike are aware of the habitat needs of this
species and that proper consultation is conducted when required by law.

Today's proposal is in response to lawsuits brought by Defenders of
Wildlife. As a result, the Service was directed to publish proposed
critical habitat for the breeding and wintering habitat for the Great Lakes
population of the piping plover by June 30, 2000, with a finalized
designation due by April 30, 2001. The Service was also ordered to
designate critical habitat for the Great Plains population by May 31, 2001
with a final rule by March 15, 2002. At this time, two separate proposals
are being published, one for the Great Lakes breeding habitat and one for
the wintering habitat for all piping plovers.

A complete description of the two proposed critical habitat designations
for the breeding population along the Great Lakes and wintering populations
of piping plovers will be published in the Federal Register. Copies of the
proposals and maps are available by contacting the U.S. Fish and Wildlife
Service at the addresses below or may be downloaded from the Worldwide Web
at http://plover.fws.gov.

The proposal will be published in the July 6 Federal Register. Service
will accept written comments from the public for 60 days following
publication in the Federal Register. Written comments on the Great Lakes
proposal should be submitted to Piping Plover Comment, U.S. Fish and
Wildlife Service, 1 Federal Drive, Fort Snelling, MN 55111. Comments may
also be send electronically to: pipingplovercomments@fws.gov

Comments for the wintering population proposal should be sent to Field
Supervisor, Corpus Christi Field Office, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service,
c/o TAMU-CC, Campus Box 338, 6300 Ocean Drive, Corpus Christi, TX 78412.
Comments may also be sent electronically to: winterplovercomments@fws.gov.

Public hearings will be held this summer on the designation of critical
habitat in Great Lakes communities in Wisconsin, Michigan, Indiana, Ohio
and New York; and in the coastal communities of North and South Carolina,
Georgia, Florida, Alabama, Mississippi, Louisiana, and Texas (schedule of
hearings is attached).

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service is the principal Federal agency
responsible for conserving, protecting, and enhancing fish, wildlife and
plants and their habitats for the continuing benefit of the American
people. The Service manages the 93-million-acre National Wildlife Refuge
System comprised of more than 520 national wildlife refuges, thousands of
small wetlands, and other special management areas. It also operates 66
national fish hatcheries, 64 fishery resource offices, and 78 ecological
services field stations. The agency enforces Federal wildlife laws,
administers the Endangered Species Act, manages migratory bird populations,
restores nationally significant fisheries, conserves and restores wildlife
habitat such as wetlands, and helps foreign governments with their
conservation efforts. It also oversees the Federal Aid program that
distributes hundreds of millions of dollars in excise taxes on fishing and
hunting equipment to state fish and wildlife agencies.


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Alex J. Sagady & Associates        Email:  ajs@sagady.com

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and Community Environmental Protection

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