Public input sought on bat conservation plan in Aitkin, Carlton counties

If the draft habitat conservation plan is approved and the incidental take permit is issued, the counties would be authorized to take up to a total of three northern long-eared bats (above), three little brown bats, and three tricolored bats over the 25-year project duration. (U.S. Fish and Wildlife Services photo)

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service is seeking public input on a draft habitat conservation plan developed by the Aitkin and Carlton county officials in Minnesota for three species of bats. The plan is part of an application by the two counties for an incidental take permit under the Endangered Species Act for activities that support forest management on county forest lands.

Habitat conservation plans are agreements between the Service and a landowner, private company or non-federal agency allowing them to undertake otherwise lawful activities on their property that may result in the incidental take of a federally endangered or threatened species. Permit applicants must minimize and mitigate the impact of the incidental take caused by their actions.

The draft habitat conservation plan developed by Aitkin and Carlton counties is designed to avoid or reduce unintentional “take” (harming, harassing, killing) of three bat species: the northern long-eared bat, listed as threatened under the Endangered Species Act; the tri-colored bat, petitioned for listing under the act; and the little brown bat, currently under discretionary review. The plan also provides measures to alleviate impacts of forest management on these species when unintentional take occurs.

The applicants have prepared a habitat conservation plan that describes measures they would take to avoid, minimize and mitigate incidental take of the three bat species. The draft plan proposes to create, enhance and maintain more than one-third of county-managed forest lands as habitat for the three bat species to offset impacts of habitat and forest management activities to the bats.

If the draft habitat conservation plan is approved and the incidental take permit is issued, the counties would be authorized to take up to a total of three northern long-eared bats, three little brown bats, and three tricolored bats over the 25-year project duration.

We are seeking public comment and will accept comments received or postmarked on or before January 10, 2022. The draft habitat conservation and other documents will be available online beginning December 10, 2021, in Docket No. FWS–R3–ES–2021–0126 at https://www.regulations.gov.

You may submit written comments by one of the following methods:

Online: https://www.regulations.gov. Search for and submit comments on Docket No. FWS–R3–ES–2021–0126.

U.S. mail: Submit comments to Public Comments Processing, Attn: Docket No. FWS–R3–ES–2021–0126; U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service; 5275 Leesburg Pike, MS: PRB/3W; Falls Church, VA 22041–3803.

In your comment, please specify whether your comment addresses the proposed habitat conservation plan, draft environmental action statement or any combination of these or other supporting documents.

— U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service

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