by Feb 7th: urgent: Whooping Crane, Piping Plover

Alert: Comments Urgently Needed to Protect Whooping Cranes and Piping Plovers First Incidental Take Permit for Whooping Cranes at an Individual Wind Farm
 The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS) is considering issuing the first-ever Incidental Take Permit to a wind farm for endangered Whooping Cranes and threatened Piping Plovers. If FWS grants the permit, the Merricourt Wind Power Project in North Dakota would be protected from prosecution under the Endangered Species Act (ESA) for killing Whooping Cranes and Piping Plovers.
Comments are urgently needed for three reasons: 1) FWS has failed to give the public adequate notice on an important endangered species issue, 2) the agency is only preparing an Environmental Assessment for a precedent-setting take permit of significant environmental impact, and 3) there are fewer than 400 individual Whooping Cranes left in the wild.
KLJ is now preparing an Environmental Assessment for FWS. Comments are being accepted until Feb. 7 by Jennifer Turnbow, Project Manager, KLJ, 128 Soo Line Drive, PO BOX 1157, Bismarck, ND 58502-1157, Jennifer.turnbow@kljeng.com. A letter from Jennifer Turnbow about this comment period is available at http://www.abcbirds.org/abcprograms/policy/collisions/pdf/Merricourt_Wind_Scoping_Notice_1-8-13.pdf.
The Merricourt Wind Project proposes to build 100 turbines within a 22,400 acre project area and build 33 miles of access roads. FWS has advised the project developer that the wetland stopover habitat in the project area is critical to the survival and recovery of the Whooping Crane. The site is also about two miles from designated critical habitat for Piping Plovers. In addition, FWS has told the developer that three ESA candidate species may be present at the site (Sprague’s Pipit, Dakota skipper, and Powesheik skipperling).
Please submit comments to the address listed above or your organization can sign onto the letter below. An Environmental Impact Statement is needed to ensure Whooping Cranes and Piping Plovers are protected.
If your organization would like to sign onto the letter below please send the name of your organization and the city and state where you are located to sholmer@abcbirds.org. Thanks.
February 7, 2013
 
Jeffrey Towner
Field Office Supervisor
U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service
North Dakota Field Office
3425 Miriam Avenue
Bismarck, North Dakota 58501-7926
 
Subject: Environmental Impact Statement Needed for Merricourt Wind Power Project 
Dear Mr. Towner:
The undersigned [insert number] organizations respectfully request that U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS) initiate an Environmental Impact Statement under the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) for the Merricourt Wind Power Project, to extend the scoping period for 30 days, and publish notice of the scoping period in the Federal Register.
As FWS has acknowledged, the project has potential for lethal take of two ESA-listed birds, Whooping Cranes (endangered) and Piping Plovers (threatened). As a result, this project is of considerable public interest and likely to cause significant environmental impact under NEPA.
In addition, this project’s NEPA process is precedent setting. We believe that no Incidental Take Permit for ESA-listed bird species has been given to any wind farm on the U.S. mainland. Both of these species are the subject of intensive conservation efforts, and in particular, the Whooping Crane, which still numbers fewer than 400 individuals in the wild, has been the focus of an expensive captive breeding and recovery program.
Thank you for reopening the public comment period. However, because the project’s new NEPA scoping period has not been published in the Federal Register, the agency has failed to involve the public to the extent practicable. Wildlife organizations, birdwatchers, and members of the public who care about Whooping Cranes and Piping Plovers have not been adequately notified and thereby denied the opportunity to participate. Instead, notice was given by mail to select groups on a private list kept by the environmental consulting firm that was contracted to create the NEPA documentation.
This is not the open process that such landmark species deserve, nor is it in keeping with the intent of Congress when it created NEPA to ensure for informed and meaningful public involvement in environmental decisions. We urge you to initiate an Environmental Impact Statement and because there has not been adequate public notice of the scoping period, to extend it by 30 days and publish notice of the scoping period in the Federal Register.
Thank you for your consideration of our request.
Signed,

Kelly Fuller
Wind Campaign Coordinator
American Bird Conservancy

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