Informational meeting on butterflies set for Nov. 6 in Milbank | TSLN.com

Informational meeting on butterflies set for Nov. 6 in Milbank

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service will host a public meeting in Milbank, S.D., on Wednesday, Nov. 6, 2013, to present information and answer questions about the recent proposal to extend Endangered Species Act protection to two butterflies, the Dakota skipper and the Poweshiek skipperling. The meeting will be held from 5:30 p.m. to 8 p.m. at the Milbank Chamber of Commerce, 1001 East 4th Avenue.

The Service has proposed the Dakota skipper as a threatened species, with critical habitat. 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, with critical habitat. This butterfly, once found in South Dakota and seven other states, as well as 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 threatened by degradation or changes to 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.

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The Service is proposing to designate 54 tracts, ranging in size from 31 acres to 2,887 acres, in North Dakota, South Dakota and Minnesota as critical habitat for the Dakota skipper. For the Poweshiek skipperling, the Service is proposing to designate 63 tracts, ranging in size from 23 acres to 2,887 acres as in Iowa, Michigan, Minnesota, North Dakota, South Dakota and Wisconsin as critical habitat for the Poweshiek skipperling. Several of these tracts are proposed for both species. Over the next year, we will evaluate whether any of these tracts may be excluded from the final critical habitat designation, in cases where the benefits of excluding them outweigh the benefits of including them. To assist with this evaluation, the Service seeks input from the public and individual landowners on specific tracts proposed as critical habitat or other aspects of the critical habitat proposal.

The Service is also proposing a special rule for the Dakota skipper that would provide flexibility for landowners and land managers who have Dakota skippers on their property. For example, the special rule would allow incidental take of Dakota skippers as the result of routine ranching activities such as construction of fences, corrals and watering facilities; haying and mowing; and in some areas, grazing. Special rules are provided for under section 4(d) of the Endangered Species Act for animals listed as threatened.

The Service's proposal to list the two butterflies, proposal for critical habitat and proposed special rule appear in the Oct. 24, 2013, Federal Register. The public may comment on the proposal through Dec. 23, 2013.

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

–US Fish and Wildlife Service