U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service seeks comments on draft recovery plan for endangered piping plover

U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service seeks comments on draft recovery plan for endangered piping plover


The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service is seeking public comment on its draft plan to bring about the recovery of the Great Lakes population of the piping plover (Charadrius melodus). The sand-colored shorebird, listed as endangered under the Endangered Species Act in 1985, lives on Great Lakes beaches in Illinois. Indiana, Michigan, Minnesota, Ohio, Pennsylvania, New York and Wisconsin, and winters in Alabama, Florida, Georgia, Louisiana, Mississippi, North Carolina, South Carolina, and Texas.

The recovery plan recommends actions by federal and state agencies and other organizations interested in helping this endangered bird in both its breeding and wintering grounds. The goal of the plan is to address the threats that will likely cause this species to become extinct, and restore the Great Lakes piping plover population so it can be removed from the Endangered and Threatened Species lists.

Destruction of habitat, disturbance and increased predation rates due to elevated predator densities in piping plover habitat are described as the main reasons for this species’ endangered status and continue to be the primary threats to its recovery. The remaining populations, whether on the breeding or wintering grounds, mostly inhabit public or undeveloped beaches. These populations are vulnerable to predation and disturbance.

Critical habitat for the breeding population of the Great Lakes piping plover was designated on May 7, 2001. A total of 35 units, encompassing 325 kilometers (201 miles) of shoreline in eight states are included in the designation. On July 5, 2001, the Service designated 66.861 hectares (165,211 acres) along 2,894 kilometers (1.798 miles) of coastline in eight southern states as critical habitat for the wintering population of piping plover. Critical habitat designation identifies habitat areas that provide essential life cycle needs of the species and seeks to protect adequate habitat to meet the recovery criteria. Designation does not, however, signify that areas outside of designation are unimportant or may be required for recovery.

Piping plovers nest on wide, sand and cobble beaches with little vegetation and disturbance. Over the past decade, the species has bred primarily in Michigan and Wisconsin, although occurrence during migration has been recorded in other Great Lakes states. In the wintering areas, these birds roost and forage on the beaches, dunes, sandy and muddy flats of the Atlantic and Gulf coasts.

Public and private efforts to recover the plover are already underway. State and federal agencies and private citizens in Michigan and Wisconsin and throughout the states where the birds over-winter are managing recreation and other land uses to maintain beach habitats where many of the piping plovers live.

The Service will collect written public comments on the draft recovery plan over the next 30 days.

Public comments must be received by Sept. 4, 2002, at which time they will be considered while developing the final plan. Comments should be addressed to the Field Supervisor, Ecological Services Field Office. U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, 2651 Coolidge Road, Suite 101, East Lansing, MI 48823.

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service is the principal federal agency responsible for conserving, protecting, and enhancing fish and wildlife and their habitats for the continuing benefit of the American people. The Service manages the 95 million-acre National Wildlife Refuge System which encompasses nearly 540 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.

A copy of the draft recovery plan can be obtained from the Fish and Wildlife Reference Service, 5430 Grosvenor Lane, Suite 110, Bethesda, MD 20814 (telephone: 301-492-6403 or 800-582-3421), or from the Service’s website at: http:/midwest.fws.gov. TTY users may contact the Fish and Wildlife Reference Service through the Federal Relay Service at 800-877-8339.

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