U.S. Fish and Wildlife invites comments on proposals for two prairie butterflies | TSLN.com

U.S. Fish and Wildlife invites comments on proposals for two prairie butterflies

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service has reopened the public comment period on its proposal to designate critical habitat for the Dakota skipper and Poweshiek skipperling, two species of butterflies, under the Endangered Species Act, and on a proposed special rule for the Dakota skipper. The Service also released a draft economic analysis of the critical habitat designation. Comments on the proposed critical habitat designations and the economic analysis will be accepted through Oct. 23, 2014. Comments on the special rule are accepted through Oct. 7, 2014.

On Oct. 24, 2013, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service proposed to protect the Dakota skipper as threatened and the Poweshiek skipperling as endangered under the Endangered Species Act due to steep population declines in both species. At that time, the Service also proposed a special rule, called a 4(d) rule, for the Dakota skipper and proposed to designate approximately 27,782 acres of critical habitat for the Dakota skipper and approximately 26,184 acres for the Poweshiek skipperling (many of those areas overlap, thus a total of 39,035 acres was proposed for both species combined).

Based on additional information received since October 2013, the Service revised its proposal to designate critical habitat for the two butterflies, removing some areas from the proposal and adding others. The Service is also considering modifying the proposed 4(d) rule that allows for some agricultural activities, including grazing, in the Dakota skipper's range, even though the activities may affect the butterfly. Comments on those modifications are also sought.

The draft economic analysis released today by the Service considers the economic impacts of the proposed critical habitat designation for the two butterflies. Critical habitat contains areas or habitat features that are essential for the conservation of a listed species. 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. The Service's draft analysis found that the most likely activities to be impacted by the critical habitat designation are agriculture and grazing activities covered by voluntary conservation agreements with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and the Natural Resources Conservation Service in unoccupied critical habitat. The costs are borne largely by federal agencies, which are required to consult with the Service when a project they are funding, permitting or working on is likely to affect the species for which critical habitat is designated.

To see the Service's draft economic analysis, changes to proposed critical habitat and changes being considered for the proposed Dakota skipper 4(d) rule, go to http://www.fws.gov/midwest/endangered/insects/dask/

You may submit comments by one of the following methods:

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(1) Electronically:

Go to the Federal eRulemaking website: http://www.regulations.gov. In the Search box, enter the Docket Number FWS–R3–ES–2013–0043 (proposed 4(d) rule) or FWS–R3–ES–2013–0017 (proposed critical habitat), which are the docket numbers for these rulemakings. You may submit a comment by clicking on "Comment Now!'' Please ensure that you have found the correct rulemaking before submitting your comment.

If your comments will fit in the provided comment box, please use this feature ofhttp://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.

(2) By hard copy: Submit by U.S. mail or hand-delivery to:

Public Comments Processing,

Attn: FWS-R3-ES-2013-0043 (for comments on the proposed 4(d) rule) or

FWS– FWS-R3-ES-2013-0017 (for comments on the proposed critical habitat)

U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service Headquarters

MS: BPHC

5275 Leesburg Pike

Falls Church, VA 22041-3803

We request that you send comments only by the methods described above. We will post all comments onhttp://www.regulations.gov. This generally means that we will post any personal information you provide us. We will consider all comments on the proposed critical habitat and draft economic analysis received by or postmarked on or before October 23, 2014. We will consider all comments on the proposed 4(d) rule received by or postmarked on or before October 7, 2014.

The Service has 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 threatened by degradation or changes to their habitat.

–U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service