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U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service Weighs Leelanau Coastal Development

Public hearing requested on plan that endangers piping plover

January 19, 2001 | By Jim Lively
Great Lakes Bulletin News Service

BENZONIA – The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service is expected to act within weeks on a request by Leelanau County land owners who want to build 13 multi-million dollar homes on the largest remaining stretch of privately owned unprotected beach on the Leelanau peninsula. The Michigan Land Use Institute has formally requested a public hearing on the proposed Magic Carpet Woods development, which threatens prime habitat for the piping plover, an endangered shore bird.<B></B>
<P>The new development would be directly adjacent to Leelanau State Park at the northern tip of Leelanau County. The park and surrounding shoreline is popular with birders and naturalists. The Leelanau Township Planning Commission and the Township Board have gone on record to argue for putting the property now slated for development in public ownership.
<P>The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service has jurisdiction in the case because it manages wild populations of piping plover which the federal Endangered Species Act safeguards. The federal wildlife agency describes the Great Lakes population of the piping plover as ‘at a perilously low level’. Since 1983, the number of nesting pairs has never exceeded 30. Human activity and lakefront development, such as that proposed for Magic Carpet Woods, pose the most significant threat to plover nesting. Plovers have nested less than a mile from the proposed development, and additional loss of critical habitat further limits the possibility for recovery of this shore bird in the Great Lakes region.
<P>"If the piping plover is ever going to reach a stable population in the Great Lakes, the federal government must protect this type of shoreline," said Jim Lively, shoreline protection project coordinator for the Michigan Land Use Institute. "Because this property is contiguous with an even larger piece of state protected shoreline it provides even greater opportunity for plover nesting."
<P>The stretch of beach at risk is well known to the federal wildlife agency, which conducted biological assessments and is expected to formally designate the area as critical plover habitat this spring. The Institute, along with Defenders of Wildlife and the Grassroots Environmental Effectiveness Network, are calling on the Fish and Wildlife Service to hold public hearings and postpone any decision on the permit request until after the agency takes formal action on designating the habitat.
<P>The final opportunity to comment in writing on this proposal is January 22, 2001. Send a letter expressing your concern for the endangered piping plover, and your interest in holding a public hearing on this proposed development before any action is taken. Without your letters and a public hearing, it is likely the Fish and Wildlife Service will grant the permit and bulldozers could begin work as soon as the snow melts.
<P>For more information please contact Jim Lively at the Institute.<BR>Tel: 231-882-4723 ext. 13, Fax: 231-882-7350, <A href="mailto:jim@mlui.org">jim@mlui.org</A>.<BR></P>&nbsp; <BR>

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