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florida gators... never threatened!

If you ain't a Gator, you should be! Alligators (and endangered crocs) are important indicator species atop their food chains, with sensitivity to pollution and pesticides akin to humans. See ESA blawg. Gator blood could be our pharmaceutical future, too. See ESA musing.


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"This institution will be based on the illimitable freedom of the human mind. For here we are not afraid to follow truth wherever it may lead, nor to tolerate any error so long as reason is left free to combat it." -- Thomas Jefferson to William Roscoe, December 27, 1820.


Thanks, Kevin.

KEVIN S. PETTITT helped found this blawg. A D.C.-based IT consultant specializing in Lotus Notes & Domino, he also maintains Lotus Guru blog.

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FWS considers downlisting Okaloosa darter, and incidental take permits for Ohio wind farm take of Indiana bat and Florida airport park take of scrub jay

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75 Fed. Reg. 5263 (Tuesday, February 2, 2010) / Proposed Rules
DEPARTMENT OF THE INTERIOR Fish and Wildlife Service
50 CFR Part 17 / Docket FWS–R4–ES–2008–0071; 92220–1113–0000–C6 / RIN 1018—AW07
Endangered and Threatened Wildlife and Plants; Proposed Reclassification of the Okaloosa Darter From Endangered to Threatened and Proposed Special Rule
AGENCY: Fish and Wildlife Service, Interior.
ACTION: Proposed rule.

SUMMARY: We, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (Service), propose to reclassify the Okaloosa darter (Etheostoma okaloosae) from endangered to threatened under the authority of the Endangered Species Act of 1973, as amended (Act). The endangered designation no longer correctly reflects the current status of this fish due to a substantial improvement in the species’ status. This proposed action is based on a thorough review of the best available scientific and commercial data, which indicates a substantial reduction in threats to the species, significant habitat restoration in most of the species’ range, and a stable or increasing trend of darters in all darter stream systems. We also propose a special rule under section 4(d) of the Act. This special rule would allow Eglin Air Force Base to continue activities, with a reduced regulatory burden, and would provide a net benefit to the Okaloosa darter. We are seeking information, data and comments from the public on this proposal.   DATES: To ensure that we are able to consider your comments on this  proposed rule, they must be received on or before April 5, 2010.

EXCERPT RE: DOWNLISTING: The recovery plan for the Okaloosa darter was approved on October 23, 1981 (Service 1981, 18 pp.) and revised on October 26, 1998 (Service 1998, 42 pp.). The recovery plan identifies a recovery objective of downlisting, and eventually delisting, the Okaloosa darter by enabling wild populations capable of coping with natural habitat fluctuations to persist indefinitely in the six stream systems they inhabit by restoring and protecting stream habitat, water quality, and water quantity. The Okaloosa darter may be considered for reclassification from endangered to threatened (downlisted) when: (1) Instream flows and historical habitat of stream systems have been protected through management plans, conservation agreements, easements or acquisitions or both; (2) Eglin AFB has and is implementing an effective habitat restoration program to control erosion from roads, clay pits, and open ranges; (3) The Okaloosa darter population is stable or increasing and comprised of two plus age-classes in all six stream systems for 5 consecutive years; (4) The range of the Okaloosa darter has not decreased at all historical monitoring sites; and (5) No foreseeable threats exist that would impact the survival of the species.  For more information on the recovery plan for the Okaloosa darter, a copy of the plan is posted on our Web site. Each of the above criteria for downlisting the Okaloosa darter to threatened has been met,

EXCERPT RE: LISTING AS THREATENED: only one of the five listing factors currently poses a known threat to the Okaloosa darter, namely, Factor A.—The present or threatened destruction, modification, or curtailment of its habitat or range. Eglin AFB manages the vast majority of the Okaloosa darter’s range, 98.7 percent. We have seen substantial progress on Eglin AFB addressing threats to the darter’s habitat under the base’s INRMP and general ongoing habitat restoration. Resource stewardship on Eglin AFB is generally reducing the threat of habitat destruction and range reduction (for example, restoring erosive, near-stream borrow pits). Eglin AFB is addressing the threat of sedimentation from unpaved roads and from areas adjacent to poorly designed and maintained paved roads. Similarly, restoration of Mill Creek on the Eglin Golf Course, which had been substantially altered by culverts and manmade impoundments, has recently (2007) been completed. As the smallest of the six darter watersheds, the darter population in Mill Creek is probably most vulnerable  to extirpation. We anticipate that restoration at Mill Creek will secure a viable population in this system. Eglin has worked diligently to generally improve habitat quality within its boundaries. Outside of Eglin’s borders, we have recently been working with the City of Niceville to improve their wastewater collection system and install more appropriate culverts at a number of road crossings. However, additional improvements are necessary before this threat of sedimentation and pollution is completely removed.

The Okaloosa darter is known to occur in only six clear sandy stream systems that drain into two Choctawhatchee Bay bayous in Walton and Okaloosa Counties in northwest Florida. Okaloosa darters are characterized by the two fanlike dorsal fins and scarcely reach two inches in length.  Approximately 90 percent of the 457 square kilometer (176 square mile) watershed drainage area is under the management of Eglin AFB, and FWS estimates that 98.7 percent of the darter’s extant range is within the boundaries of Eglin AFB.  Photo from FWS Panama City

See news coverage by Southeast AGnet


Click below for information about the incidental take permits for Indiana bats and scrub jays...
75 Fed. Reg. 4840 (Friday, January 29, 2010) / Notices
DEPARTMENT OF THE INTERIOR / Fish and Wildlife Service
Docket FWS–R3–ES–2009–N263; 30120–1113–0000–F6
Endangered and Threatened Wildlife and Plants; Indiana Bat; 30-Day Scoping Period for a National Environmental Policy Act Decision on a Proposed Habitat Conservation Plan and Incidental Take Permit
ACTION: Notice of intent to conduct a 30-day scoping period for a National Environmental Policy Act decision on a proposed habitat conservation plan and incidental take permit; request for comments.
SUMMARY: We, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (Service), intend to prepare a National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) document for a decision on a proposed habitat conservation plan (HCP) and incidental take permit (ITP) for the Indiana bat (Myotis sodalis) at a wind power project in Champaign County, Ohio. We provide this notice to advise other agencies, tribes, and the public of our intentions, and to obtain suggestions and information on the scope of the NEPA review and issues to consider in the planning process. We are also using this opportunity to seek comments on the appropriate level of NEPA review, and whether an Environmental Assessment (EA) or an Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) would be the appropriate level. DATES: To ensure consideration, please send your written comments by March 1, 2010.

Maternity colonies of Indiana bats have recently been detected in Champaign County, Ohio, though no Indiana bat hibernacula have been documented in this county. EverPower Wind Holdings, Inc. is planning the development of a wind power project in Champaign County, Ohio.  Photo by Illinois Natural History Survey available from USDOT Federal Highway Administration

75 Fed. Reg. 4839 (Friday, January 29, 2010) / Notices
DEPARTMENT OF THE INTERIOR / Fish and Wildlife Service
Docket FWS–R4–ES–2010–N014; 40120–1112–0000–F2
Endangered and Threatened Wildlife and Plants; Permit, St. Lucie County, FL
AGENCY: Fish and Wildlife Service, Interior.
ACTION: Notice of receipt of application for incidental take permit; availability of proposed low-effect habitat conservation plan and associated documents; request for comment/information.
SUMMARY: We, the Fish and Wildlife Service (Service), announce the availability of incidental take permit (ITP) and Habitat Conservation Plan (HCP). V.P. Properties (under the name of International Airport Business Park) (applicant) requests an ITP under section 10(a)(1)(B) of the Endangered Species Act of 1973, as amended (Act). The applicant anticipates taking about 1.0 acre of Florida scrub-jay (Aphelocoma coerulescens) (scrub-jay) breeding, feeding, and sheltering habitat incidental to lot preparation for the construction of a gas station, convenience store, several light industrial warehouse condominiums, and supporting infrastructure in St. Lucie County, Florida (Project). The destruction of 1.0 acre of foraging and sheltering habitat is expected to result in the take of one family of scrub-jays. The applicant’s Habitat Conservation Plan (HCP) describes the mitigation and minimization measures proposed to address the effects of the Project to the scrub-jay.
DATES: Written comments on the ITP application and HCP should be sent to the South Florida Ecological Services Office (see ADDRESSES) and should be received on or before March 1, 2010.