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U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service Announces Approval of Recovery Plan for the Endangered Piping Plover (Great Lakes Population
The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (Service) announces the release of its new 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, inhabits beaches of the Great Lakes during the breeding season of April through September, and winters along the Southeast Atlantic and Gulf of Mexico coastlines.
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 list.
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 Great Lakes piping plover breeding areas was designated on May 7, 2001. On July 5, 2001, the Service designated areas of coastline in eight southern states as critical habitat for the wintering areas of piping plover. Critical habitat designation identifies habitat areas that provide essential life cycle needs of the species and seeks to protect 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. These shore and dune areas also support a community of other rare plants and animals, including the threatened Pitchers thistle, dwarf lake iris and Houghtons goldenrod. Over the past decade, the Great Lakes piping plovers have 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 working to protect habitat and manage land uses to maintain areas where many of the piping plovers live.
Copies of the recovery plan will be available shortly from the Fish and Wildlife Reference Service, 5430 Grosvenor Lane, Suite 110, Bethesda, Maryland 20814 (telephone: 301-492-6403 or 800-582-3421). The plan is currently available on the Services website at: http://endangered.fws.gov/recovery/Index.html#plans. TTY users may contact the Fish and Wildlife Reference Service through the Federal Relay Service at 800-877-8339.
The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service is the principal federal agency responsible for conserving, protecting and enhancing fish, wildlife and plants and their habitats for the continuing benefit of the American people. The Service manages the 95-million-acre National Wildlife Refuge System which encompasses more than 542 national wildlife refuges, thousands of small wetlands and other special management areas. It also operates 66 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.
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