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E-M:/ GLIN:/ FWS acts on Piping Plover Habitat



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From: Rich_Greenwood@fws.gov
Date: Thu, 3 May 2001 17:51:26 -0500
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U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service Designates Critical Habitat for
                    Endangered Great Lakes Piping Plovers


After evaluating extensive comments received from the public, the U.S. Fish
and Wildlife Service today designated approximately 201 miles of mainland
and island shoreline in eight Great Lakes states as critical habitat for
endangered breeding populations of the piping plover, a small shorebird.

Critical habitat, under the Endangered Species Act, refers to geographic
areas that are essential for the conservation of a threatened or endangered
species and that may require special management considerations or
protection. A critical habitat designation does not create a preserve or
refuge and only applies to situations where federal funding or a federal
permit is involved.  Designation of critical habitat does not affect
private landowners undertaking a project on private land that does not
involve federal funding or require a federal permit or authorization.

"The Great Lakes breeding population of piping plovers has declined to just
30 breeding pairs, all of which nest in northern Michigan," said Bill
Hartwig, Regional Director for the Service's Great Lakes/Big Rivers Region.
"Today's action will help ensure the population has enough habitat to
recover and ultimately be removed from the list of threatened and
endangered species."

The Service's designation affects mainland and island shoreline in
Michigan, Illinois, Indiana, Wisconsin, Minnesota, Ohio, Pennsylvania, and
New York.  In 2000, all Great Lakes piping plovers nested in northern
Michigan.  Based on information received from the public, the Service
removed three sites from the final designation because they do not contain
and are unlikely to develop elements needed by the piping plover.

The Service also scaled back the inland boundary for critical habitat areas
from 1 kilometer to 500 meters (1,640 feet) inland from the normal high
water line.  The revised boundary reflects information gathered during the
comment period that indicates most dune systems do not extend beyond the
revised boundary.  Finally, the Service excluded lands already incorporated
in an approved Habitat Conservation Plan for the piping plover in Michigan.

"The public played a large role in the designation of critical habitat for
the piping plover," Hartwig said. "Based on information we received during
the comment period, we were able to refine the designation to include those
areas that are truly needed by the plover for its recovery."

There may be a need on some Federally managed beaches to temporarily
restrict use in some areas during the spring and early summer to allow for
piping plovers to nest.  However, most beaches within critical habitat do
not come under Federal authority and, therefore, are not affected by the
designation.

While the Service designated 201 miles of shoreline as critical habitat,
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 human-made structures will not be considered
critical habitat for the species even though they may fall within critical
habitat designation boundaries.

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
critical habitat designation will help the species by ensuring Federal
agencies and the public alike are aware of the plover's habitat needs and
that consultation with the Service by Federal agencies is conducted when
required. Actions that occur within designated critical habitat do not
require consultation if they do not affect critical habitat.

"A critical habitat designation essentially means Federal activities that
may affect that habitat are reviewed by the Service," Hartwig explained.
"It is a tool to help Federal agencies work together to conserve imperiled
species and their habitats."

This designation is in response to a court order directing the Service to
designate critical habitat for the Great Lakes breeding population of the
piping plover by April 30, 2001.  The Service must also designate critical
habitat for the Great Plains population of the piping plover by March 2002.

In addition, the Service is required by a court order to designate final
critical habitat for piping plovers on their wintering grounds in the
southern U.S., where the birds are classified as threatened.  Piping
plovers from the Great Lakes population and other populations winter in
North and South Carolina, Georgia, Florida, Alabama, Mississippi, Louisiana
and Texas.  The Service was unable to meet the court-ordered deadline of
April 30, and has asked the court for a 60-day extension in order to
complete its final designation of wintering critical habitat by June 29.

The piping plover is named for its melodious call.  It is a pale-colored
shorebird, whose light, sand-colored plumage blends in with sandy beaches
and shorelines. Piping plover populations have declined significantly in
the past several decades, especially breeding plovers in the Great Lakes
region.  Breeding habitat has been replaced by shoreline development and
recreational uses, causing 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.

There are three populations of piping plovers in the United States; the
most endangered is the Great Lakes breeding population, encompassing only
30 breeding pairs.  The Northern Great Plains and Atlantic Coast
populations are classified as threatened and include 1,398 and 1,372 pairs
respectively.  All piping plovers winter along the southeast and Gulf
coasts and are classified as threatened in their wintering habitat.

The complete description of the final critical habitat designation for the
Great Lakes breeding population of the piping plover will be published in
the Federal Register. These descriptions and additional information on the
piping plover and other endangered species are also available on the
Service's website at http://midwest.fws.gov/endangered/pipingplover

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 94-million-acre National Wildlife Refuge
System which encompasses more than 535 national wildlife refuges, thousands
of small wetlands and other special management areas. It also operates 70
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.

For further information about programs and activities of the U.S. Fish and
Wildlife Service in the Great Lakes-Big Rivers Region, please visit our
website at http://midwest.fws.gov

                                   - FWS -


   Our mission is working with others to conserve , protect, and enhance,
fish, wildlife, and plants and their habitats for the continuing benefit to
                            the American people.



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