Another public comment period on butterflies | TSLN.com

Another public comment period on butterflies

The 60-day comment period on a proposal to protect two prairie butterflies, the Dakota skipper and the Poweshiek skipperling, under the Endangered Species Act will end on Dec. 23, 2013, but the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service announced the public will have more opportunities to provide input. The Service plans to open an additional public comment period in 2014, once a draft economic analysis on the potential impacts of critical habitat is available. Additionally, the Service will continue to accept comments via mail or hand delivery on the proposal for critical habitat and the proposal for listing between Dec. 23, 2013, and when the comment period is reopened.

On Oct. 24, 2013, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service proposed the two butterflies for protection under the Endangered Species Act due to steep population declines. The Service also proposed critical habitat for both species.

The draft economic analysis will evaluate the potential economic impact of designating critical habitat for the Dakota skipper and Poweshiek skipperling. When designating critical habitat, the Service may exclude some areas if the benefits of excluding areas outweigh including them.

When that draft analysis is complete, the comment period will reopen so that the public can provide further input on the proposals themselves, as well as on the draft economic analysis of the proposed critical habitat designation. The Service anticipates the draft economic analysis for the Dakota skipper and Poweshiek skipperling proposed critical habitat will be available in spring 2014. Typically, such comment periods are reopened for an additional 30 days. The Service will notify the public when the comment period reopens.

Comments previously submitted will not need to be resubmitted, and you may continue to submit comments through December 23, 2013, or during the reopened comment period that will occur sometime in the spring of 2014.

Through Dec. 23, 2013, you may submit comments by one of the following methods: (1) In the Keyword box, enter Docket No. FWS-R3-ES-2013-0017 for comments on the proposed critical habitat or Docket No. FWS-R3-ES-2013-0043 for comments on the proposed listing, which are the docket numbers for the rulemakings. Then, in the Search panel on the left side of the screen, under the Document Type heading, click on the Proposed Rules link to locate this document. You may submit a comment by clicking on "Send a Comment or Submission." If your comments will fit in the provided comment box, please use this feature of http://www.regulations.gov, as it is most compatible with our comment review procedures. If you attach your comments as a separate document, our preferred file format is Microsoft Word. If you attach multiple comments (such as form letters), our preferred format is a spreadsheet in Microsoft Excel; or (2) By hard copy: Submit by U.S. mail or hand-delivery to: Public Comments Processing, Attn: FWS-R3-ES-2013-0017 (for comments on the proposed critical habitat) or FWS-R3-ES-2013-0043 (for comments on the proposed listing); Division of Policy and Directives Management; U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service; 4401 N. Fairfax Drive, MS 2042–PDM; Arlington, VA 22203.

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People who wish to submit comments between Dec. 23, 2013 and the reopened comment period must submit them by U.S. mail or hand-delivery to Public Comments Processing, Attn: FWS-R3-ES-2013-0017 (for comments on the proposed critical habitat) or FWS-R3-ES-2013-0043 (for comments on the proposed listing); Division of Policy and Directives Management; U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service; 4401 N. Fairfax Drive, MS 2042–PDM; Arlington, VA 22203.

The Service's October 24, 2013, proposal also proposed a special rule for the Dakota skipper that, if finalized, would allow take resulting from grazing and other routine livestock ranching activities in certain geographic areas.

The Service proposed the Dakota skipper as a threatened species. Found in Minnesota, North Dakota, South Dakota and Canada, the Dakota skipper has experienced a dramatic decline in numbers and no longer occurs on half the sites where previously found.

The Poweshiek skipperling is proposed as endangered. This butterfly, once found in eight states and Canada, now occurs only in a few native prairie remnants in Wisconsin and Michigan, and in Manitoba, Canada. Surveys indicate that Poweshiek skipperlings are gone from nearly 90 percent of the sites where they were previously found.

Both butterfly species use prairie habitat and are susceptible to degradation of their habitat.

Under the Endangered Species Act, endangered species are plants and animals that are in danger of becoming extinct. Threatened species are those that may become endangered in the foreseeable future. The Endangered Species Act protects listed species from take – which includes harming, harassing, injuring or killing – and conserves habitat designated as critical for the species' survival and recovery.

Critical habitat is defined by the Endangered Species Act as areas that contain habitat features that are essential for the conservation and recovery of a listed species, which may require special management considerations or protections. Except under certain circumstances, the Act requires proposed designation of critical habitat at the time that a species is proposed to be listed. Protection of critical habitat is limited to the requirement that federal agencies consult with the Service on any actions that may affect critical habitat. The Service can then recommend ways to minimize any adverse effects. A critical habitat designation imposes no requirements on state or private actions on state or private lands where no federal funding, permits or approvals are required.

For more information on the Service's proposal, go to http://www.fws.gov/midwest/endangered.

The mission of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service is working with others to conserve, protect and enhance fish, wildlife, plants and their habitats for the continuing benefit of the American people. We are both a leader and trusted partner in fish and wildlife conservation, known for our scientific excellence, stewardship of lands and natural resources, dedicated professionals and commitment to public service. For more information on our work and the people who make it happen, visit http://www.fws.gov/.

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–U.S. Fish and Wildlife