American Bird Conservancy Applauds Proposal to List Mountain Plover as Threatened

Mountain Plover. Photo: Glen Tepke

Mountain Plover.
Photo: Glen Tepke

(Washington, D.C. July 27, 2010) American Bird Conservancy (ABC), the nation’s leading bird conservation organization, today applauded the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service’s reinstated proposal to list the Mountain Plover as a threatened species under the Endangered Species Act. The proposal requests the public to provide scientific information regarding the reinstated proposal and the newly available information regarding the status of the Mountain Plover.

Once widespread in the dry tablelands of the western Great Plains and Colorado Plateau, including parts of Kansas and South Dakota, the Mountain Plover has declined greatly in the last 100 years, largely due to conversion of native prairies to croplands. In 1995 its total numbers were estimated at 8-10,000 birds, a dramatic decrease from the estimated 300,000 or so in 1975. Native predators, especially Swift Fox, limit the bird’s productivity in some parts of its range.

“Not only is it one of our rarest shorebirds, but it faces multiple continuing threats. With conversion of grassland wintering areas to agriculture, and the additional potential effects of agricultural chemicals, it is clear that the additional protections offered by listing may be required to maintain Mountain Plover populations into the future,” said ABC President George Fenwick.

“The loss of Prairie dog colonies is also affecting Mountain Plovers. Prairie dog colonies are important because they keep the grassland short – a key requirement for Mountain Plovers. With up to 90% of prairie dog colonies being lost over time, and with shooting and disease continuing to decimate prairie dog populations, the Mountain Plover is under siege on multiple fronts” Fenwick added.

The Mountain Plover was originally proposed for listing in December 2002. The 2002 proposal also included a proposed special rule exempting specified farming practices in certain parts of the Mountain Plover’s breeding range from Endangered Species Act regulations while research was being conducted regarding the conservation of the species on farmlands. Subsequently, the Service withdrew the listing proposal in September 2003 based on the conclusion that the threats to the Mountain Plover as identified in the proposed rule were not as significant as previously believed and that information available at that time did not indicate the threats to the Mountain Plover and its habitat were likely to endanger the species in the foreseeable future.

However, in November 2006, a complaint was filed challenging the withdrawal of the proposal. As part of the settlement agreement, the Service agreed to vacate its 2003 withdrawal of the listing proposal and reopen a public comment period. The Service also agreed to submit a final listing decision to the Federal Register by May 1, 2011.

The Service is seeking scientific information regarding the Mountain Plover’s life history, ecology, and habitat use; its range, distribution, population size, and population trends; current and potential future threats to the Mountain Plover and its habitat; and positive and negative effects of current and potential land management practices that affect the Mountain Plover, including conservation efforts. The Service will evaluate all the information to help in making a final determination on whether the species warrants listing.

The Mountain Plover is light brown above, with a lighter-colored breast, but lacks the contrasting dark breastbelt common to many other plovers. During the breeding season, it has a white forehead and a dark line between the beak and eye which contrasts with the dark crown.

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