26 October 2012

Agreements Promote Tern and Plover Conservation

Another agreement was reached this spring to promote common efforts that conserve habitat used by the interior Least Tern and Piping Plover in Nebraska.

The memorandum of understanding was enacted to "recognize the importance of taking cooperative, proactive actions to manage" both bird species at sand and gravel operations along the lower Platte River near Ashland, Fremont, and Louisville.

Parties which signed the memorandum in April include Western Sand and Gravel Company, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, the Tern and Plover Conservation Partnership (TPCP) and the Nebraska Game and Parks Commission.

The company, which removes sand from the floodplain that creates open flat areas of sand used for nesting by both birds, agreed to two items: 1) "discourage nesting in work areas" by creating mounds rather than flat open areas preferred by the birds for breeding activities, in order to discourage any nests being located in work or travel areas; 2) "improve nesting habitat" based upon recommendations provided by TPCP project site representatives. Any work of this type would be done at company expense.

The "partnership" had two items of responsibility: 1) monitor nesting activity, by notifying the company when they would visit a minimum of 48 hours prior to arrival, and checking in with site supervisor's upon arrival. The company would allow the TPCP workers to "install warning signs and predator exclusion cages as deemed necessary."

A second item of this section of the memorandum, is that the TPCP would respond to any company "requests for information" within 24 hours.

Responsibilities of the Fish and Wildlife Service, and Nebraska Game and Parks Commission would be to:
1) "Provide technical support and counsel" ... "in accordance with state and federal regulations" including the Endangered Species Act as well as state statues pertaining to threatened and endangered species.
2) "Regularly monitor tern and plover activity" as "one or more representatives from TPCP, NGPC, or USFWS may be directly engaged in monitoring birds" at a site; "The TPCP shall keep all of the parties informed about Interior Least Tern and Piping Plover locations and activities"; and
3) "Coordinate with the TPCP" with the coordination ensuring that an annual report is prepared by the TPCP and distributed to all parties, "summarizing results of the annual monitoring and any recommended modifications to sand and gravel operations. Any modifications must be prepared in writing ..."

The memorandums of understanding are "a success in establishing a shared concern for the Least Tern and Piping Plover based upon particular perspectives," said Robert Harms, a biologist with the Fish and Wildlife Service. "Through collaboration we worked together with mutual respect and an understanding of common goals," to conform to legal requirements and promote conservation of these birds.

The latest agreement took affect upon "signature of all parties" which occurred in April, and early May, 2012.

This is the third "memorandum of understanding" for sand and gravel operations along the lower Platte River from near Fremont to Louisville. Previous agreements were reached with Lyman Richey Company and Mallard Sand and Gravel (a.k.a. Oldcastle Materials Group), said Harms. Each MOU was agreement to promote breeding habitat for both species that will help ensure their conservation.

The agreements can be terminated at any time, once a signatory to the memorandum indicates their intent to withdraw by sending letters to the others that were part of the agreement, according to the memorandum with Western Sand and Gravel Company.

The interior Least Tern is classified as an endangered species, with the belted Piping Plover classified as endangered under criteria of the federal Endangered Species Act.