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Transmission Special Status Species

Special Status Species
Present, Potentially Affected

The Endangered Species Act (ESA) (16 U.S.C §1531 et. seq.) aims to protect and restore plant and animal species that are at risk. The Bureau of Land Management (BLM) Special Status Species lists species as rare, threatened, or a species of concern. The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (USFS) is responsible for habitat conservation and restoration and species protection.. The USFS issues an endangered species bulletin identifying critical habitat and endangered and threatened species. The BLM also issues a biological report regarding mitigation measures that a developer should consider if sensitive habitat or special status species located on or near the project site. Visit the BLM’s state websites to find a list of sensitive, threatened and endangered species.

Special Status Species Impacts & Mitigation

The unique care that special status species can require places restrictions on transmission line development projects. Authorized biologists typically collect plant or animal species habitat data in pre-construction surveys. The results determine the activities allowed nearby. Transmission line projects can impact nesting, wildlife, vegetation, topsoil, and plant species. When special status species cannot be accommodated, reclamation, habitat acquisition, and Worker Environmental Awareness Programs (WEAP) are common best practices. Typical mitigation includes the following:

WEAP

  • This program equips project employees with skills to identify special status plant and animal species.
  • Pre-construction surveys draw up site maps to depict where each species is located.
  • This program provides general mitigation measures for each species,, along with agencies to contact if a problem arises during construction.

Nesting

  • Prior to construction, conduct surveys to locate any nesting birds between April 1st and August 31st. If any construction occurs during this time period, check with the state biologists to determine how close and how loud activities can occur near a nest.
  • If any active nests are found during construction phases, delay project development until biologists have determined the young have fledged or failed.

Wildlife

  • If animal denning or breeding grounds occur within .25 miles of substations, access roads, or tower pads, stop all activity.
  • To discourage insect and wildlife contamination, fence substations and cover open soil pits.

Vegetation removal

  • If any tree, shrub or plant special status species is found in the pre-construction survey, avoid surrounding habitats.
  • Biologists mark off appropriate areas to develop.
  • Use existing access roads where possible to decrease the impacted area. If new roads are necessary, build across slopes to mitigate erosion.

Topsoil

  • All topsoil will be stockpiled either onsite or at an adjacent site to be used during reclamation.

Reclamation

  • Long-term wildlife impacts will occur, especially as restoration begins. Lasting impacts are minimal; however, proper fencing discourages wildlife onsite.

Plant Species

  • Mark and avoid all special status species.
  • Maintain root systems, crowns and flowering characteristics during construction and operation.
  • Collect seeds after the plant matures to ensure population stability.
  • Concentrating stockpiled soils, personal vehicle and construction equipment decreases the impacted area.
  • When available, equip dirt access roads with gates to restrict public access. This decreases road and species impacts caused by vehicular traffic.

Habitat Compensation/Acquisition

  • If a species is projected to experience residual impacts from the transmission line project, a compensation type is agreed upon.
  • Acquiring habitats is the most common form of compensation; however, on other public lands, these funds may be used to conserve the same species’ habitat.
  • Acquiring private lands gives federal protection to the species and allows conservation agencies to manage populations and habitats.
  • Funds can be transferred from the transmission line developer to the conservation-managing agency to purchase the species habitat, or the company can purchase the habitat and then transfer the title to the conservation-managing agency.